Oil Field Safety

I understand with the way the economy is there isn't the money to get everything done like it should be.   But I do know the 500+ million tax payer money pissed away in Ca. bulding solar panels would have paid for hirung several more people working oil field safety. 

Management and leadership is needed badly!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
 
 

Workplace regulators have huge job, few resources to police oilfield safety

Workplace regulators have huge job, few resources to police oilfield safety

By CHRISTOPHER BJORKE Bismarck Tribune BismarckTribune.com |

Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 2:00 am | (0) Comments

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Firefighters practice putting out oilfield fires at the Tesoro Refinery in 2004.

 
 

The Bismarck office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has four people who monitor compliance for 56,000 businesses in North Dakota and South Dakota.

That number is five less than it was in 2000 in a region with 5,700 producing oil and gas wells and 199 working rigs.

"Clearly, we can't be in all places at all times," said OSHA Area Director Tom Deutscher. "We're roughly a third of the personnel we need to be, so we're in response mode."

Deutscher said his office handled 14 workplace deaths in the past year, and half of those were in the oil and gas industry. A well explosion in McKenzie County added two more fatalities to the tally this month. The rapid expansion of drilling means more and more people are going to work at sites where there is a potential for a deadly accident.

"For lack of a better word, we're the cop on the street," Deutscher said. "One of the dilemmas we face is the question of ‘How do we have a presence up there?'"

Oil and gas development, like other industrial activities, can be dangerous for workers, and the growth of wells in state has been reflected by the growth of injury and accident claims.

According to the North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance agency, the number of claims filed in oil and gas occupations during the 2004-05 fiscal year was 247. This year, that number is 1,897. The number of workers in those jobs also has increased - from 4,800 to 23,753 during the same time periods.

"The number of claims filed has gone up drastically," said WSI Director Bryan Klipfel. Claims have increased by 198 percent in oil trucking jobs and 178 percent among well servicing occupations.

When occupations experience dramatic growth as they have in the oil patch, it is natural that the number of injuries also increases, Klipfel said.

"I hope it doesn't happen, but that's usually the trend," he said.

Most of the injuries are not serious, and the most common are ergonomic, related to lifting or repetitive tasks. But when something goes wrong at a well site, it can happen in dramatic fashion, as it did in McKenzie County on Sept. 14, when a well exploded and killed two workers and burned two more.

OSHA faces a number of challenges to its oversight of the oil patch: the large number and wide dispersion of work sites, its small number of compliance officers and even finding lodging for its staff when they visit oil and gas counties.

Assistant Area Director Eric Brooks said that even keeping track of where rigs are can be difficult.

"You simply don't know where these rigs are," he said. "Unlike a Cloverdale or a Bobcat - we know where they are."

OSHA is trying to hire three more staff members - an industrial hygienist, a safety specialist and an engineer. It can be difficult to attract people with the necessary skills and training and the agency has to compete with the energy industry itself for good candidates.

"You can't just hire anybody off the street," Brooks said. "It takes two, three years to train a journeyman compliance officer."

Deutscher said that a more visible presence by OSHA in the oil fields would encourage safe work sites - "If the HP parks under the overpass, people slow down" - but the size of the industry and his agency's limitations mean that OSHA must rely on companies to promote good behavior.

Brooks and Deutscher said that most companies are good actors and the complexity of drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations means there is little room for carelessness. But that is not always true.

"It's like the old gold rush," Deutscher said. "It's a hurry to get the stuff out of there, and sometimes safety be damned."

Klipfel said that WSI has safety consultants working in the oil patch and throughout the state and it provides educational resources for employers. There also is a cost incentive in the insurance rates they pay and the cost of claims, which averages $10,550 per claim in oil and gas occupations.

"It's really business sense, financially, to have as much safety as possible," Klipfel said.

In place of monitoring work sites, OSHA is trying to educate workers on how to report work site violations and on their rights to speak out without the threat of employer retribution. But even when OSHA receives reports, it is difficult to respond to all of them.

Brooks said that another danger in North Dakota's oil and gas fields is the number of workers who are new to the industry. In west Texas, where he grew up, multiple generations of the same family work in the industry, and skills and safe practices are ingrained.

"In the oil and gas industry up here, the skill set doesn't exist in the same manner," he said. "That lost skill set is one of the most dangerous components out there."

OSHA also promotes small, "seat-belt" measures that are easy to follow but make a big difference to safety. The biggest one is flame-resistant clothing.

"If there's one thing I'm standing on a stone and preaching, it's FR clothing," said Brooks, who saw the Persian Gulf oil industry while in the Navy. "I never once saw an Arabian oilfield worker in jeans and shorts."

North Dakota's director of mineral resources, Lynn Helms, said he believes the state's safety rules are adequate, but the resources of industry monitors like OSHA are likely not enough to police everything.

"Probably not when you see the kind of growth we've seen," Helms said. "Everything is kind of stressed."

Deutscher said companies and workers must understand how to prevent accidents.

"The real question is, ‘Why do we still have these accidents out there?'" he said. It is a question the industry and its monitors need to answer "before some other mother's son or daughter is lost."

(Reach reporter Christopher Bjorke at 250-8261 or chris.bjorke@bismarck

tribune.com.)

 

 

 
Tim Sandstrom's picture
Tim Sandstrom
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I am a little confused by the article. There are a lot of contract safety people up there and in all honesty mist walk around on pins and needles when on site because of worry of some sort of possible infraction. All safety contractors and safety personnel inside the companies are bound by OSHA standards and even go above.

There are so many contractors working fir the bug companies and they often are the issue. However big and other responsible companies understand that and do the best they can in classes, training and enforcement of any contractors.

In all honesty I am surprised only half of the work place deaths come from the oil field. That says something about the safety standards set because the patch is nuts with activity. In fact the most deaths in the oil patch in the nation come from the 'every day' death trap of transportation.

It's just when something outside the 'norm' happens it tends to benign like an explosion. Never good.

But in all until you work for and have to go through all the OSHA, driver training, do the jsa reports etc people don't realize just how safety oriented things are out there. It almost over bearing at times even!


 

 

Kirsch's Outdoor Products | Fargo, ND | 701-261-9017 Garmin GPS Hunting Maps
Liebel's Guide Service | Williston, ND | 701-770-6746 liebelsguideservice.com
Jig-em-Up Guide Service | Grand Forks, ND | 701-739-9198 jig-em-up-guide-service.com

 

 
Tim Sandstrom's picture
Tim Sandstrom
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Joined: Monday, July 14, 2003 - 12:00am

Wow I phone. Sorry for spelling. I need to slow down!


 

 

Kirsch's Outdoor Products | Fargo, ND | 701-261-9017 Garmin GPS Hunting Maps
Liebel's Guide Service | Williston, ND | 701-770-6746 liebelsguideservice.com
Jig-em-Up Guide Service | Grand Forks, ND | 701-739-9198 jig-em-up-guide-service.com

 

 
pinto plains's picture
pinto plains
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north dakota needs more oil field safety laws.  Violations mean big fines to oilfield companies and that will clean things up.  North dakota still runs ground flare pits, they have been illegal in sask. and alberta now for almost 30 years.  Even stricter yet is B.C.  The state must enforce stricter laws and then oil field will clean up its act.  Places like Texas have almost no restrictions, had a buddy down there in the 90's he said no hard hats, no nomex, be lucky if everybody had steel toes.  He was running frac trucks and he said companies down there would say coveralls were optional.  

mauserG33-40
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Joined: Saturday, May 24, 2008 - 9:39pm

Tim Sandstrom Said:
Wow I phone. Sorry for spelling. I need to slow down!

Why are you in such a hurry?      Have your mind on something else?

The article was just another attempt to tell everyone the government is the only one that can do the safety job. 

 

mauserG33-40
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Joined: Saturday, May 24, 2008 - 9:39pm

Pinto do you really think more regulations will help to make the oil field safer?  

 

dsmith
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Joined: Sunday, December 16, 2001 - 12:00am

pinto plains Said:
north dakota needs more oil field safety laws.  Violations mean big fines to oilfield companies and that will clean things up.  North dakota still runs ground flare pits, they have been illegal in sask. and alberta now for almost 30 years.  Even stricter yet is B.C.  The state must enforce stricter laws and then oil field will clean up its act.  Places like Texas have almost no restrictions, had a buddy down there in the 90's he said no hard hats, no nomex, be lucky if everybody had steel toes.  He was running frac trucks and he said companies down there would say coveralls were optional.  

I worked in Texas, from what I saw none of what your bud told you about Texas was true.

Tim Sandstrom's picture
Tim Sandstrom
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Joined: Monday, July 14, 2003 - 12:00am

More safety laws? Really? How about people need to take it upon themselves to abide by what is already in place? Right now if I walked up on a Hess location I would have PICs running at me with the jsa reports, etc. If I walked on location not geared right I wouldn't be allowed out the pickup door.

I am sure there are infractions all the time but I am amazed each time I have walked on location. I am even scared to fart!

More laws? Nah, I saw abide by what is in place. Most companies are beyond OSHA standards. The small ma and pa companies make their own bed. They won't be working long for many companies. And I always say safety starts with YOU. If you need to be told to be safe then you should be wrapped in a bubble.


 

 

Kirsch's Outdoor Products | Fargo, ND | 701-261-9017 Garmin GPS Hunting Maps
Liebel's Guide Service | Williston, ND | 701-770-6746 liebelsguideservice.com
Jig-em-Up Guide Service | Grand Forks, ND | 701-739-9198 jig-em-up-guide-service.com

 

 
Tim Sandstrom's picture
Tim Sandstrom
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Joined: Monday, July 14, 2003 - 12:00am

P.s.

I know nothing about flare setup etc. Until I get further education I concede.


 

 

Kirsch's Outdoor Products | Fargo, ND | 701-261-9017 Garmin GPS Hunting Maps
Liebel's Guide Service | Williston, ND | 701-770-6746 liebelsguideservice.com
Jig-em-Up Guide Service | Grand Forks, ND | 701-739-9198 jig-em-up-guide-service.com

 

 
eyexer's picture
eyexer
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Joined: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 4:42pm

pinto plains Said:
north dakota needs more oil field safety laws.  Violations mean big fines to oilfield companies and that will clean things up.  North dakota still runs ground flare pits, they have been illegal in sask. and alberta now for almost 30 years.  Even stricter yet is B.C.  The state must enforce stricter laws and then oil field will clean up its act.  Places like Texas have almost no restrictions, had a buddy down there in the 90's he said no hard hats, no nomex, be lucky if everybody had steel toes.  He was running frac trucks and he said companies down there would say coveralls were optional.  

Can you give me five new laws you would put in place in the oilfield in regards to safety that aren't in place now?

 

eyexer's picture
eyexer
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Joined: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 4:42pm

Tim Sandstrom Said:
P.s.

I know nothing about flare setup etc. Until I get further education I concede.

the flare setup has absolutely nothing to do with safety. 

 

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