New OSHA Program to Fight Rising Oilfield Deaths, But Will it Work? 2/4/13
CBS 7 News Reporter
February 4, 2013
PERMIAN BASIN-OSHA Pushes New Program to Curb Oilfield Deaths, But Will it Work?
In 2012, there were 40 oil-field fatalities in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana alone, which is considered Region 6. That’s an increase of 7 deaths from 2011.
OSHA wants to change that with a new Stand-Down plan. Employers can voluntarily choose to take time out of their workday to stop work and educate employees and managers on-site. But it's voluntary, with no mandate to participate.
"Participation is key to success for any safety program,” said Alliance Field Services Operations Manager Gene McCann.
So far 14 companies in the Permian basin have signed up. We asked OSHA’s Assistant Regional Director Mark Briggs how they would ensure participation.
"It's really just a voluntary honor system, if you said you were going to do it, we really want you to do it the best way you can,” Briggs said in a phone interview.
So if it could save lives, why isn't the program mandatory?
"Why it's not being started I couldn't even begin to tell you,” Briggs said. “It would have to be a regulatory requirement, it would have to go through congress to be passed as part of OSHA regulations. That doesn't happen easily and doesn't happen quickly."
There is one incentive for the stand-down--a $300 credit on a $800 safety course taught through the University of Texas at Arlington. But there's no scheduled class near The Permian Basin.
"It's not going to be here locally, so I don't see how it could help us," said McCann.
We asked Briggs if OSHA thinks the program is realistic, given that it's voluntary.
"We won't know until much later on if this has any effect, but we do believe that every effort must be made to make a reduction,” Briggs said.
“It’s anywhere from a 30 minute to an hour where we ask companies to look at their safety and health programs,” said Mark Briggs, Assistant Regional Administrator for OSHA.
But the program is strictly voluntary. There is no way for OSHA to force companies to participate in the extra training, which they say could reduce the number of fatalities.
“Other than that it’s really just a voluntary honor system,” said Briggs.
Gene McCann, Operations Manager for Alliance Field Services, said he’s not sure all oil and gas companies in the area will be on board, but he is optimistic.
“There are some that might not want to do it,” said McCann. “But zero fatalities is our goal and that’s something we want to accomplish.”
Businesses do have an opportunity to sign up employees for a safety class at a reduced rate through The University of Texas at Arlington. They can use the $300 credit on an OSHA Hazard Recognition course. However, there are currently no plans to have the safety course offered in the Midland/Odessa area.