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The high price of southern Texas' booming oil industry (2 of 2)

Welcome back. We are currently discussing a recent article from the San Antonio Express that highlighted the danger faced by workers in the oil and gas industries, especially those working on the booming southern portion of the Eagle Ford Shale. The region has seen at least 11 fatal drilling accidents since 2009.

The accidents were all investigated by OSHA, which found safety violations at the site of each one of the fatalities. OSHA often concluded that the drilling companies had not taken the proper safety methods to protect their workers.

The area director for OSHA's Corpus Christi office, which monitors most of the southern Eagle Ford Shale region, said most employers do what they need to do to keep their workers safe. However, there are some that knowingly cut corners and put workers at risk to save time and money, he said.

It is expected that the actual number of drilling fatalities could be much higher as this is only the number that OSHA had the chance to investigate. OSHA has had the same amount of investigators in the region since the Eagle Ford Shale play was discovered in October 2008.

Last year alone, drilling permits in the region soared to more than 4,100, and safety advocates say that kind of number makes it difficult to know exactly how many workers were killed in drilling accidents last year. Additionally, OSHA doesn't investigate transportation accidents, which are common in the oil and gas industries.

So what is it that makes drilling such a dangerous job? To start with, workers at drilling sites are often required to work very long, stressful hours. Employees also work with heavy equipment that can be deadly if a malfunction occurs. Finally, drilling sites are often in the middle of nowhere, sometimes hours away from hospitals.

When workers are killed on the job because of safety violations, their families may have the option to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although a lawsuit can never take away the pain of losing a loved one, it can help support the family and convince oil companies that safety must be the top priority.

Source: San Antonio Express, "Eagle Ford pay is high, but work can be fatal," John Tedesco, Feb. 16, 2013

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