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NIOSH study on improving oil field safety will include Texas

The latest boom in the oil fields of the United States, and the increase in worker injuries and deaths that has occurred as a result, are sparking new interest among federal safety officials. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has announced plans to conduct a broad survey next year to try to more clearly determine what's causing the problems.

As readers of this blog are aware, accidents in the oil fields of Texas and the rest of the country claim a lot of lives every year and leave many others seriously injured or disabled. The oil and gas industry is considered among the most hazardous in the world and the death and injury tolls seem only to be rising based on federal statistics.

Too often, some say, accountability has been lacking. And part of the reason for that, according to the news outlet Reveal, is that federal officials responsible for ensuring worker safety don't have a coordinated system for capturing all oil- and gas-related deaths. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn't count certain deaths in its data.

NIOSH plans call for conducting a survey of 500 oil field workers in Texas, North Dakota and one other state yet to be announced. They'll be asked about the number of hours they work, whether safety gear is supplied and used on the job and whether written policies exist that include information about workers' rights to stop working if hazards are spotted.

Another area of scrutiny is expected to focus on whether companies are emphasizing production over protection by paying speed bonuses and paying truck drivers by the load, rather than by the hour.

Results of the survey and recommendations for possible change are expected to be published by early 2017. One industry official confidently suggests the findings will show that the industry, at least in North Dakota, "has a robust safety culture."

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