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Problem of Oil Field Accidents & Worker Safety in Wyoming


Jobs in the oilfield are tough, demanding and dangerous, especially for those who work directly on rigs in production. Does the danger and demand of these jobs excuse employers from providing adequate worker safety? Many of sound mind argue ‘no’ yet there are some who see this field as being exempt from certain worker safety regulations found in most fields.

DeeDee Correll of the Los Angeles Times has described the issue of worker safety in the oilfield in an article featured in August. Specifically, this article described the dispute over worker safety in Wyoming. There are some interesting points from that article that will be summarized here.

Worker Safety in Wyoming

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wyoming finds itself at more than three times the national average in occupational fatalities. Correl describes Wyoming’s reputation as “the most dangerous place in the nation to work.”

The issue is before Wyoming as to how to go about reducing dangers and regulating worker safety. Opinions diverge on this issue, especially in the context of the oilfield.

Leo Beach, a worker injured in an oilfield accident, told the Los Angeles Times, “These multibillion-dollar corporations are completely off the hook from taking care of you.” He went on to say, “They turn their back on you. They should be held accountable.”

Workers such as Beach argue that nothing will happen until it is made easier for injured workers to sue oil companies. It is fortunate for workers such as these that there are national oilfield accident attorneys that are on their side.

Even with such advocacy, it is still difficult for injured workers to truly find justice.

Dangers in the Oilfield

As previously mentioned, opinions are split about oilfield safety. “I personally lost a family member on a rig,” said Paul Ulrich, a spokesperson for EnCana Corp. to the LA Times. Oilfields are inherently perilous, he added and then went on to say, “Tragic, tragic, tragic, but it is reality at times in Wyoming.”

Representatives of the industry argue that if it were made easier for workers to sue oilfield companies then this would result in more lawsuits and not safer working conditions. This point is valid. It seems that representatives of the industry and workers in the field can find common ground in simply wanting safer work environments.

Lawmakers are in their second year of taking up this emotional debate. We can only hope that a solution will be arrived at soon that will make oilfield working environments safer.

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