The results are in from the federal government’s analysis of an oil rig blast that took the lives five Oklahoma workers last year. The federal review pins blame on the Houston-based business that owns/operates the rig as well as the government and energy sector for insufficient regulation and oversight of drilling activities.
Bad News for the Oil and Gas Industry
The aforementioned report was released by the United States Chemical Safety Board. The review is a harsh critique of the oil and gas industry as a whole. There is clearly a lack of oversight of the businesses operating in this sector of the economy. If more oversight were provided, it is quite possible the Quinton, Oklahoma blast never would have happened or at least have been mitigated. This blast was the deadliest accident on a United States oilfield since the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon tragedy that claimed nearly a dozen lives. Oil and gas companies are now tasked with implementing safety practices and standards to prevent similar explosions in the future. The bottom line is the report detailed above makes the case for the industry to finally recognize the true extent of the inherent hazards in oil/gas work and provide the proper protocols for worker safety.
Why the Quinton Tragedy Occurred
After more than a year of investigation, it has been determined faulty drilling and the improper testing of the oil well led to the failure of a blowout preventer. It merely took a couple hours for the situation to become extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, the necessary safety systems were not put in place by the company managing the site, Patterson-UTI. Gas proceeded to fill up the well after the drill pipe and bit were taken out, causing the deadly explosion. It certainly did not help that employees disabled drill rig alarms. The fire moved right on through the rig and took the lives of five hardworking men.
The investigation revealed considerable lapses in safety practices. Dangerous conditions were present for 14 straight hours, gradually building to a head. The bottom line is the lack of proper safety protocols at the well ended up causing a completely preventable explosion. Thankfully, Patterson-UTI responded by implementing protocols to prevent similar explosions from occurring in the future. Though company leaders stated they did not concur with every single finding listed in the report, a representative stated the company will continue to review its training, procedures and policies with the report’s information in mind.
The Chemical Safety Board is an unbiased federal agency that investigates chemical accidents. The Board typically conducts a handful of investigations each year after particularly gruesome industrial disasters. This group has determined the lack of regulation is part of the reason why the deadly Quinton explosion occurred. Sadly, drilling has grown so quickly in recent years that regulation has not been able to keep pace. The federal government has failed to create nuanced rules pertaining to onshore drilling. Making matters worse is the fact that the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration exempts oil and gas drilling from its standards of governance.
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