Not only have we seen a rash of injuries and death on the fields themselves, but outside the actual production sites as well.
Vehicular accidents are practically exploding in and around the oil and gas producing regions.
Just take a look at these statistics:
- In the last ten years alone, auto related deaths on Texas highways have soared to 1,000 additional fatalities.
- The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) indicates a 7% increase in serious injury and fatal traffic accidents for 2013 in the Eagle Ford Shale area. This amounts to 3,430 crashes – or about 10 per day – every day!
- For the Permian Basin, TXDOT reported there were 4,371 serious and fatal traffic crashes for the same year. That is 12 major accidents a day – an increase of 13% from 2012.
So what’s driving up these numbers? A variety of factors.
- More traffic equals more accidents. As the sheer number of trucks and 18 wheelers are let loose on the roads to service the increased production, more accidents will naturally occur.
- Rural roads. More and more the large rigs are travelling on rural roads. The problem here is two-fold. The roads themselves are not built for such heavy loads, and the rural residents are not used to sharing those roads with the big rigs.
- Driver fatigue. This is a big issue. It’s not just the long hours on the road logged in by the big rig drivers, but many accidents are happening when workers get off their shifts and drive their personal vehicles back to their motel room or home. The drivers are simply exhausted, and exhausted drivers cause accidents.
- Distracted driving. Cell phones are a great convenience – but mix talking on cell phones and texting while driving, and you have a recipe for possible disaster.
- Not using seat belts. For whatever reason, it appears many oil field workers just don’t like to buckle up, turning what should have been an injury accident into a fatal one. According to Richard Gergasko, the CEO of Texas Mutual Insurance Company, in 60% of the fatalities a seatbelt was not being used.
- Driving while drugged. As you read above, popping uppers is one way workers try and stave off fatigue. But mix drugs and driving, and accidents are sure to follow.
- Lower standards. Also as you read above, it’s now a scramble for the oil and gas companies to find enough people to fill their open positions. Some companies aren’t very picky – and fill driver positions with applicants that may not have made the grade just a few years back.
The oil and gas fields will never be 100% safe. But it does seem that risk-taking and operating on the edges of both the law and increased productivity is pushing the envelope a bit too far in the direction of worker injury and accidents.