Oil field danger slips by OSHA. Even when workers die, firms dodge listWHY IS THAT?
Why doesn't the U.S. government and state governments protect workers as they are supposed to? Is it corruption at the federal level? At the state level? Or both? Isn't it time for a change? For the federal government, who has allowed defunding of federal agencies meant to protect workers to take the responsibility of the deaths they have caused? Isn't it time we throw those defunding political psychopaths in prison for the deaths they have caused? What if your son, your brother, your husband died because corrupt federal and state governments allowed that to happen? What would you do?If Shannon Hardy had known about all the safety violations and all of the roughnecks killed at Robinson Drilling rigs, she would have tried to talk her son, Chase Dillon, out of taking his first real job there just out of high school
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration keeps a list of “the worst of the worst” employers in the nation — the Severe Violator Enforcement Program — and drilling companies with multiple fatalities should be on it, safety experts say.But on the day nearly two years ago when Dillon suffered an electric shock, fell and broke his neck, Robinson Drilling of Texas wasn’t on the list. And it has never been added, even though the Permian Basin company reported five fatal accidents and racked up two dozen safety violations from 2010 to 2012
Now, each time Hardy hears an oil field commercial aimed at recruiting young Texans like her son, the Lubbock resident gets angry.
“They make it sound wonderful: ‘You don’t need any experience. You’re going to make all this money,’ ” Hardy told the Houston Chronicle. “I don’t think anybody knows all the risks that are involved.”
OSHA created the Severe Violator Enforcement Program four years ago to focus resources and public scrutiny on companies that kill workers and willfully and repeatedly ignore safety requirements. But a Houston Chronicle investigation has found that the program, which OSHA says lists the “worst of the worst,” includes none of the Texas oil and gas companies that have reported multiple fatalities
.“There’s something wrong with a worst-violator program where the companies that have killed the most people are not on the list, and they do need to fix that,
” said John Newquist, a former OSHA assistant regional administrator from Chicago.
The Chronicle, during its review of hundreds of accident cases, found that the new program’s focus on “repeat” and “willful” violations has resulted in companies avoiding the list. OSHA supervisors have considerable latitude in assessing those terms, and the program more strongly targets other industries, such as construction.
Jordan Barab, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA who helped create the program, said he agreed that the Chronicle’s analysis revealed flaws. He said he wanted to find out more about why employers reporting the most U.S. oil field fatalities avoided being listed.
Robinson Drilling has avoided inclusion but heavily invested in safety after the deaths of Dillon and other workers, voluntarily making improvements beginning in 2011 that are beyond what OSHA could require.
Under pressure from lawsuits, regulators and its own customers, Robinson has hired a former high-ranking OSHA official as its safety director, retired some of its oldest rigs, implemented an inspection program, created a six-member safety team and ramped up drug testing.
Robinson has had no fatal accidents since 2012 and has been under a new ownership structure since 2013 after family members battled in court over the company’s future, Howard County court records show.
Few troubled companies can be counted on to make similar improvements without enforcement action, said Eric Frumin, a prominent worker safety expert who participated in congressional debates on OSHA enforcement programs.
Frumin said the Chronicle’s finding that no oil field employer associated with multiple deaths is on the OSHA list suggests that regulators lack tools to properly identify potentially dangerous violators and respond to far-flung oil field accidents.
“(Some) companies do terrible things, and they’re getting away with it, and it’s revealing the difficulties that OSHA has with the tools at its command to put a stop to it,” said Frumin, director of health and safety for the Change to Win Federation in New York City. “They’re at the limits of their powers here.”
In its yearlong investigation of workers’ deaths and injuries in Texas’ oil and gas fields, the Chronicle found that the federal government has failed for 22 years to implement safety standards and procedures for onshore oil and gas drilling. Records and interviews revealed a clear double standard between those onshore platforms and offshore oil sites, where all injury-related accidents — as well as fires, explosions and spills — are much more stringently regulated and investigated by the Coast Guard or by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
At onshore oil and gas drilling sites, OSHA only investigates accidents in which someone dies or three or more people are hospitalized — the same standard it applies to workplaces from fast-food restaurants to construction sites.
In 2012, the Chronicle found, Texas reported the most oil-field-related deaths in a decade with 65, about 60 percent more than in 2011. Nationwide, there have been more than 660 reported fatalities since 2007, 40 percent of which occurred in Texas
In Texas, eight oil and gas employers reported three or more fatal accidents since 2007, according to a Chronicle analysis of OSHA enforcement actions. All eight were fined for serious violations in subsequent fatal accident investigations.
But only two of those companies also were initially cited for so-called “repeat” violations — Robinson Drilling and Patterson-UTI Drilling Co.
OSHA must find either “repeat” or “willful” violations to list a company in the severe violators’ program. Neither Robinson nor Patterson-UTI ever were listed.
Back in the days of the George W. Bush administration, Patterson-UTI, the giant drilling company based in the West Texas town of Snyder, was included in OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Program, the forerunner to its current severe violators list.
The program’s days were numbered after the Labor Department’s inspector general blasted OSHA in a 2009 report for failing to adequately track and address employers responsible for multiple deaths. In that report the inspector general revealed that under the former program, both Patterson-UTI and BP Products North America Inc. had been listed, even though the practice at the time was not to reveal the names of companies in the program.
It was partially in response to that report that OSHA abolished the old program, arguing that it was too hard to administer, given its size and scarcity of resources.
Both BP and Patterson-UTI have continued to suffer workplace fatalities. But neither has been put on the new list.
Most companies, whether Fortune 500 giants or family-owned firms, routinely fight OSHA’s enforcement actions through negotiations or litigation. They fight longer and harder when there is any chance they might be labeled a “severe violator,” an internal OSHA evaluation shows.
In the two years before Chase Dillon’s death in 2012, OSHA inspected Robinson Drilling eight times and proposed 45 violations, though that tally was reduced to 30 after the company challenged citations.
At Robinson, inspectors found repeated failures to ensure electrical panels were properly guarded or that grounding rods had been installed to reduce risk of electrocution, among other things.Neither Dillon nor his mother knew about all those problems before Dillon’s fatal day on a rig near Big Lake
. The accident occurred July 27, 2012, when he climbed an 8-foot ladder, reached up with a knife in his gloved hand to cut twine used to suspend a cable to the rig, and suffered the electric shock, according to Reagan County Sheriff Jeff Garner and an autopsy report. Dillon fell and broke his neck. The 21-year-old stopped breathing on the 20-mile ambulance ride to rural Reagan County Memorial Hospital.
Shannon Hardy said that no Robinson official contacted her when her son died and that she “was so angry at Robinson for them not taking any responsibility.”
Robinson company officials said they could not comment on individual deaths because of pending litigation, but Crownover, part of the company’s revamped management team, emphasized that it has responded to its safety problems. “We have worked very hard to make sure Robinson Drilling is a place that people want to work. Everybody on the team is committed to making the well-being of our employees the No. 1 priority.”The company settled the OSHA matter in an administrative court by paying a $14,000 fine last year. So, Dillion's life was worth $14,000.
This is wrong on so many levels.http://www.reporternews.com/news/2014/mar/08/oil-field-danger-slips-by-osha/
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