Houston Chronicle Reveals Oil Industry’s Workplace Death Statistics

The Houston Chronicle published a story in their Sunday edition concerning the number of fatalities in the oil and gas industry. The story focused on the trend in Texas that workplace deaths are decreasing in all industries but the oilfield. Statistics show from 2007-2011 there were 197 workplace fatalities reported for energy related companies.

The Chronicle article told the story of a rig worker whose death prompted the largest OSHA fine in Texas history against Nabors Well Services and sister company Nabors Drilling USA LLC. These companies have the most recently reported OSHA deaths in Texas. The victim was struck in the head after an incorrectly placed metal attachment fell from a forklift. The driver of the forklift confused the levers and dropped the piece. Six serious violations were found by OSHA inspectors and a fine of $36,725 was levied.  The fine was later reduced.

The article cited examples of other oil companies being at fault for fatalities but paying low fines even though a death was involved. Unit Texas was fined $1,625 for the death of a worker in 2007.

Houston-based Express Energy has OSHA violations totaling $5,650 for two of three fatalities. A fatal accident in 2012 is still under review.

Nabors fatal accidents record also includes two electrocution deaths at East Texas drill sites in 2007 and 2010.

In response to these deaths, OSHA has increased the number of proactive inspections at oil exploration and production sites across the states. Nabors’ rigs in Beaumont and Liberty County were proactively inspected and proposed penalties of $152,100 were found. The company is currently contesting the fines.

The number of deaths occurring in the oilfield has prompted a different response from OSHA. They have asked oil and gas employers in Texas and four other states to temporary halt work in a voluntary “stand down” to draw attention to potentially life-threatening risks.

Doyle has represented many oil and gas workers injured by unsafe working conditions. In one example, we represented two clients injured during the pigging of oilfield tubing. Other clients have been involved in helicopter crashes while flying to an offshore oil rig  These accidents were preventable and resulted from a failure to comply with safety guidelines. We stand behind these victims and their families in the fight for safe oilfield work environments.