Texas’ Offshore Energy Workforce Vulnerable After New Regulatory Safety Rollbacks

Jul 18, 2019 | Oilfield Accidents

MAY 2019 — The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) made public its regulatory safety rollbacks that will dismantle security standards for offshore drilling rig operations that were implemented after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Deepwater Horizon was an offshore drilling rig, located about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, that exploded on April 20th, 2010 and consequently caught fire after multiple safety warnings and violations were ignored. The structure’s poor safety regulations resulted in the deaths of 11 employees, and injuries of 17 others. 4 million barrels of oil were spilled over the course of 84 days.

​These rule cuts follow the current administration’s plan to vastly expand oil and natural gas drilling off the nation’s gulf coast line. Additionally, the revisions will reportedly save an estimated $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.
The following list is a comprehensive summary of safety revisions to take effect 60 days after its submission to the Federal Registrar
Reduces testing of blowout preventers–a large, specialized valve used to seal, control and monitor oil and gas wells.
Reduces 30-minute safety tests every 14 days, to 5-minute tests every 21 days.
Eliminates a requirement that companies report some of those safety-test results to the Interior Department.
Removes a requirement for an Interior Department approved independent expert to verify safety measures and equipment used in offshore drilling operations.
Removes a requirement that drilling operators provide real-time data from wells to onshore observers.
While many industry professionals praise the dismantling of these safety precautions, citing that the motion will eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens, others have voiced their concerns that relaxed rules will lead to a surge in workforce injuries–or worse, more fatalities.

A major source of oil and natural gas for the United States, the western and central Gulf of Mexico is now home to approximately 175 offshore drilling rigs that produce 1.65 million barrels of oil per day (2017).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2013 the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry experience unprecedented growth leading to a doubling of its workforce and an increase in the number of drilling rigs by 71%. The number of work-related fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry increased by 27.6%, with a total of 1,189 deaths.

Occupational injuries and fatalities in the oil and gas industry are especially probable when safety precautions are overlooked or eliminated from daily operations. Fortunately, there are lawyers who specialize in oil and natural gas injury cases and can help you get the justice that you or your family deserve.

If you or someone you love is seriously hurt or fatally injured on an offshore drilling rig, you may be unsure of where to turn. The Houston attorneys of Williams Hart have experience assisting families dealing with the aftermath of a work-related injury or fatality. Please do not hesitate to contact our law firm below to speak with an experienced lawyer today.

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