Preventing Oil Rig Injuries by Improving Safety Procedures and Equipment
It was nearly 10:00 p.m. on April 20, 2010 as an offshore drilling crew was finishing their work in the Gulf of Mexico. Suddenly, explosions rocked the platform and continued to burn until it sank. Eleven men died that evening and nearly five million barrels of oil escaped over the next 87 days. The rig was known as Deepwater Horizon, and the disaster is now recorded as the worst offshore oil spill in United States history.
After an extensive 17-month investigation by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the U.S. Coast Guard, a final report was released in September 2011. This report provided in-depth details about the causes of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and recommendations to prevent similar tragedies from causing wrongful death and catastrophic injuries.
In the report, investigators strongly criticized BP, Transocean Ltd. And Halliburton Co. for the reckless and risky decisions they made prior and during the tragedy. The report also berates the government for its poor oversight. More comprehensive regulations might have reduced the likelihood of the crisis.
Signs of Oil Rig Trouble
According to the findings detailed in the final report, the Deepwater Horizon crew recognized signs of trouble and encountered problems nearly a month and a half before the explosion. However, due to poor management and failure to respond to critical indicators, the crew unwisely continued to work. When the initial blowout and resulting explosions rocked the oil rig, insufficient emergency bridge response training compounded an already disastrous situation.
To improve the safety of offshore drilling operations, the report calls for improvements to well design and integrity testing, the use of detection devices and standardized remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) for better response following a blowout. Further recommendations include requiring operators to more thoroughly report well-control problems, conducting unannounced BOEMRE inspections and developing standardized procedures, tests and analysis protocol.
Dangerous Job Sites
The full list of recommendations will likely change how the offshore oil industry operates in the Gulf of Mexico. The recommendations will likely also improve the safety of oil field workers. This has been long needed. Many times worker safety is compromised by company executives attempting to reduce costs and expand bottom lines. Unfortunately, it is the men and women injured or the families of workers killed who ultimately pay the price of corporate greed.
Tragic accidents frequently occur in oil-rich regions such as the Gulf of Mexico, but the high-profile Deepwater Horizon incident provided widespread awareness of the dangers and risks oil field workers face every day of serious job injuries. Perhaps, as a result of that tragic accident, the new safety recommendations will finally provide the measures needed to protect the lives and livelihoods of Gulf region families and offshore oil rig workers.