Three workers received severe burns in early December after an explosion and fire at an oil field about 20 miles southeast of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The men were transported to hospitals in Cheyenne and Greeley, Colorado, after the explosion at a compressor station, according to fire officials.
The men work for Houston-based EOG Resources, which operates several deep natural gas wells in the area. Fire officials say they are investigating the incident, but the likely cause was a natural gas leak. The workers face a lengthy recovery from their injuries.
Oil-and-gas industry is plagued with fatalities and violations
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics says 1,566 oil field workers died on the job from 2008 to 2017, which is almost the same as the number of U.S. soldiers who died in Afghanistan during that period.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says it cited oil-and-gas companies for 10,873 safety violations from 2008 to 2018, and the agency classified 64% as “serious,” meaning the hazards were likely to result in death or serious harm.
Oil-and-gas-drilling jobs remain among the most dangerous
The fatality rate for the oil-and-gas-drilling industry is nearly five times that of all other industries in the U.S., according to the nonprofit investigative journalism organization Center for Public Integrity (CPI). The group says 2014 was the last time the government published fatality data on oil-and-gas extraction.
The CPI says oil-and-gas companies experience more temptation to cut corners due to focusing on maximizing production levels, putting workers more at risk in what is already a dangerous job performed under extreme conditions, in both hot and cold temperatures.
Fines offer little protection for workers
OSHA investigated 552 accidents between 2008 and 2018 that resulted in the death of at least one oil-and-gas-field worker. The agency found violations in 10 of those incidents. The average penalty levied was $16,813, but the fines were later reduced by about 30%.
The American Petroleum Institute has argued against increased safety regulations for so-called “upstream” oil-and-gas workers citing a low injury rate. However, skeptics point out the rate is low because the industry rarely reports injuries. If you are hurt, or a loved one is killed on the job, an attorney can help you receive compensation.