Reporter John Tedesco used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain OSHA investigation information which showed that federal inspectors found safety violations at the site of every fatality and often concluded that companies hadn’t taken sufficient steps to ensure the safety of their workers.
Tedesco pointed out that the actual death toll is most likely higher, because of still-open investigations and the 40 Texas oil and gas workers killed in transportation accidents between 2009 and 2011. (OSHA doesn’t investigate transportation accidents on open roads.)
Although drilling permits granted for the Eagle Ford Shale – the focus of the report – skyrocketed to more than 4,000 last year, the number of OSHA inspectors covering the area has remained the same since the discovery of the shale in 2008.
Contributing to the challenges of safety in the oil and gas industry: long hours, a sense of urgency and massive equipment. When an accident does occur, the remote nature of many work areas means a long delay in getting an injured worker to a hospital.
“In one case, paramedics faced delays in reaching an injured repairman at a rig site,” Tedesco writes. “Three hours after the accident, the worker finally arrived by helicopter at University Hospital in San Antonio. He died in the operating room.”
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