Oil Rig Safety after the Deepwater Horizon Accident
Literally and figuratively, there is a race to the bottom in the oil industry. But that should not be allowed to put oil field workers and others at risk of serious or catastrophic injuries.
The literal race to the bottom is made possible by modern technology, which now allows offshore oil rigs to tap pockets of oil miles below the earth’s surface. The Deepwater Horizon project, which created the largest oil spill in U.S. history, was operating in 5000 feet of water when it drilled 32,000 feet into the earth’s crust. The rig, owned by BP, is not alone. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrationreports there are nearly 4,000 active oil and gas platforms operating in U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s no secret that offshore oil drilling is big business. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were producing 1.15 million barrels of oil per day as of 2008. This represents 23 percent of the oil produced in the United States. With oil prices hovering at $100 per barrel, and demand from developing nations increasing, oil companies are vying for position to take advantage of undiscovered reserves.
Dangers to Oil Field Workers
In the rush to capitalize on lucrative oil deposits, the dangers involved in oil drilling should not be overlooked. The Deepwater Horizon accident was a high profile event. But there are scores of accidents that go unreported or underreported.
Investigations by the Houston Chronicle reveal that 509 fires have been recorded on oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico since 2006 -including nine characterized as “major,” killing two people and seriously injuring 12. The Chronicle also reported at least 35 fatal platform accidents in the Gulf during that period. Workers were killed in drowning and diving incidents, helicopter crashes and drilling equipment mishaps. Deaths such as these can potentially give rise to wrongful death lawsuits. If you lost a loved one in an oil field accident, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about your specific situation.
Regulatory agencies have conducted extensive investigations in efforts to prevent future accidents. The overall consensus is that equipment should be inspected regularly to ensure that the well can be shut down in emergencies. Contingency plans should be reviewed often to make sure emergency power can be maintained, and that clear responsibilities are established and followed. Most importantly, cooperation among agencies is essential to ensure compliance with safety rules and practices.