We mentioned that “perfect storm” of events driving the need for more workers in the oil & gas industry. But that comes at a steep price.
Inherently dangerous, it seems hiring practices, cost concerns and an entrenched “hell bent for leather” attitude is fueling this sad situation.
Inexperienced Workers: High demand means new workers are being hired that don’t have sufficient or relevant training or experience. Previously, “roughnecks” practically grew up on the oil and gas fields. Now they are newbies to the industry.
Worker Exhaustion: According to Ryan Hill (chief of the oil and gas extraction program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health):
“Workers in this industry typically work 12 to 14 hour shifts for a week or two consecutively. The type of work that workers do often requires performing repetitive and physical labor.”
Put over-worked people in a stressful and dangerous setting, and you are literally playing with lives.
- Playing Around The Rules: Yes, there are strict OSHA rules and regulations governing the oilfields. However, rules and regulations mean little if companies look to weasel around them. In their quest to increase production (and profits) OSHA standards can be conveniently “overlooked.” In fact, millions of dollars are spent yearly by the oil and gas industry on lobbying and political efforts to keep regulations and restrictions as little as possible.
- Improper Maintenance: When any downtime means huge financial losses, equipment may be pushed to the limit. Replacing machinery takes time and money – stretching its useful life is hardly a new concept.
- More Machinery: With newer drilling techniques, more drilling equipment can be crowded onto the same amount of space, all operating around the clock – which leads to more opportunities for accidents and mishaps to happen.
- Improper or Inadequate Training: With the frenzy of new hires, training may be brief at best The push is to get those workers on the field and start producing profits.
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Yes, workers are supposed to be screened before being hired, and at intervals afterwards. But in the roughneck culture, hard drinking goes with the territory. Plus, the long, grueling hours and work weeks are a siren-call for methamphetamine abuse – anything to keep one alert and active while performing hard, arduous labor.
- Smaller Companies Mean Larger Risks: With the allure of big money, smaller companies jump into the fray. They may not have the resources to dot every “i” when it comes to following regulations and instituting comprehensive safety measures. Here’s a recent, actual breakdown of injuries and illness per company size:
- 1 – 10 Workers – 7.5 cases per 100 workers
- 11 – 49 Workers – 13.7 cases per 100 workers
- 50 – 249 Workers – 4 cases per 100 workers
- 250 – 999 Workers – 3.5 cases per 100 workers
- 1000+ Workers – 0.9 cases per 100 workers