Oil and gas: A different kind of crisis

John Calvert

By John Calvert,
Senior Loss Prevention Specialist

In the early part of the 20th century, oil and gas was Texas’ ticket into the national economy. By the 1980’s, the industry was written off as dead after a surplus of crude oil caused a dramatic drop in prices. Oil rigs that once pumped money by the barrel stood as rusted relics of a bygone era.

Today, the picture is drastically different. Fueled by new technology and increased demand, the oil industry is reintroducing itself to the Lone Star State. Its resurgence is one reason our economy is the envy of the nation, but it has also fueled an increase in on-the-job accidents.

Oil and gas jobs have always been among the most hazardous. Exacerbating the issue are increased production quotas, coupled with workers willing to stretch their physical limits for fear of losing their lucrative positions. Simply put, the oil and gas industry is facing a new kind of crisis:

  • Fatality rates are seven times higher than other industries.
  • Fatalities increased 25 percent between 2011 and 2012.
  • Texas accounted for more than half of those fatalities.
  • Driving-related incidents, explosions and falls are among the most common accidents resulting in injuries.

I was glad to hear the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently formed an alliance with the Association of Energy Service Companies. The alliance’s mission is to promote safety in the oil and gas industry. But protecting oil and gas workers on the job will take a collaborative effort.

Sure, regulatory agencies can and should create and enforce workplace safety rules. But the real work has to happen in the oil patch. Managers must actively support safety, and employees at all levels of the organization must be accountable.

Click the images above for a short video about Texas Mutual's safe driving campaign for the oil and gas industry.

Click the image above for a short video about Texas Mutual’s safe driving campaign targeting the oil and gas industry.

Employers, workers and insurance companies have to understand and embrace their responsibilities in this important endeavor.

Employer responsibilities

Think about the human costs of on-the-job accidents, and treat your employees like the valuable assets they are. Stress that they should never sacrifice their safety in the name of production. Empower them to shut down any operation they feel is unsafe, and make sure they trust you will not penalize them for exercising that power.

Worker responsibilities

Your employer is responsible for providing a safe work environment. Ultimately, however, your safety is in your hands. You are responsible for following safety procedures, using personal protective equipment and reporting unsafe conditions immediately.

Insurance company responsibilities

Insurance companies are in a unique position to lead the way in workplace safety. Texas Mutual employs the state’s largest workplace safety team. Some, including me, specialize in the oil and gas industry. It is incumbent on us to collaborate with industry groups, employers and workers to identify and share best practices.

Oil and gas roundtable

The oil and gas roundtable includes representatives from the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TxOGA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Texas Mutual and employers across the state. The roundtable pools its experience to uncover injury trends, identify best practices and share them with the industry. We welcome your input. If you want to contribute to the cause, contact Jim Sierra of TxOGA at jsierra@txoga.org or (512) 478-6631.

Free resources

Texas Mutual Insurance Company

  • Safe driving for oil and gas workers – SafeHandTexas.Org
  • Texas Mutual policyholders can access free materials on silica exposure, rig moves, rig fires and other industry hazards in the safety resource center at texasmutual.com.

Texas Oil and Gas Association

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

About the author

John Calvert has over 40 yearsexperience delivering insurancerelated safety services to a range of industries. Over the past 20 years, he has primarily focused on the oil and gas industry. John is passionate about helping employers identify and correct hazards and behaviors that result in workplace accidents. His field work has given him first-hand knowledge of industry operations, including exploration/production, well services, transportation and related product fabrication. John is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, STEPS network and the oil and gas roundtable.


One Response to Oil and gas: A different kind of crisis

  1. Steve Quinn says:

    Interesting article, thanks.
    We are manufacturers of anti-slip products proven to dramatically lower slip and fall accidents and have sold these products all around the world for 23 years.
    In the USA however, and particularly in Texas we have found huge reluctance to adopt these solutions and cost is the main factor.
    The cost issue is however generated by the buyer in this case as accepting manufacturers recommendations has been a problem in that oil/gas buyers in Texas typically request overly large or excessively specified products that naturally become hugely priced. Rather than adopting solutions that have been long proven in the industry, worldwide for decades the buyers almost always try to re-invent the wheel. The high priced, over spec products prove to be outside the budget so purchases of these essential safety products are seldom made.
    Slip and falls are a major cause of lost time injury accidents and are almost entirely preventable – if only clients will accept expert advice and guidance by the manufacturer.


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