‘Significant’ Rise in Work-Related Deaths Alarms Oklahoma Oil and Gas Industry

  • Joe Wertz

Energy Tomorrow / Flickr

A surge of work-related deaths at Oklahoma oil fields is worrying energy and safety officials.

Since the federal fiscal year started in October 2011, nine people have been killed in separate accidents and three hospitalized with burns after a single “catastrophic” drilling rig fire.

“This is a significant rise in the number of deaths in this industry in our state as compared to the last few years,” Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mid-Continent Exploration & Production Safety Network officials said in a statement.

Energy industry workers and safety officials are meeting today in Oklahoma City to address fatalities, discuss ways to reduce such accidents, and to share safety training and inspection materials.

Oil and natural gas explorers, producers and related contractors will also consider scheduling voluntary “stand downs” at jobsites, wherein fieldwork would be temporarily halted while workers and supervisors review safety standards.

Click here for the meeting agenda, which includes details on the work-related deaths at Oklahoma oil fields.

The meeting is 9 a.m. to noon at the Cox Convention Center in downtown OKC.

“We’ve identified that there’s obviously a problem,” said Liz McNeil, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Labor, “and there’s so much drilling going on right now.”

Most of the workers who died had less than five years experience at the companies, and most were either crushed or struck by onsite equipment, OSHA data show. The majority of the accidents involved transportation or “tripping,” an oil-field operation that describes feeding pipeline segments into a well.