Tag Archives: West Virginia

Fatal Accidents Double At West Virginia’s Fracking Sites

The boom in natural gas in West Virginia has brought prosperity to some previously deprived parts of the state. However, as the industry booms more workers are paying the ultimate price by losing the lives on the job, according to new figures.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found 13 workers in the state’s oil and gas industry died during the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. The figure is alarming because it’s more than double the number of workers who lost their lives during the previous five-year period from 2004 to 2008 when five workers died, according to the bureau.

fracking

The Charleston Gazette reported the rise in worker deaths comes at a time when natural gas production in West Virginia has also more than doubled. The increase in deaths coincides with a rush to tap into the Marcellus Shale reserves. Oil and gas extraction activities also more than doubled in that time, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

West Virginia is not alone in paying for the increase in production in lives. Other states that are playing their part in America’s energy boom such as Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania have seen increases in worker fatalities, according to the Houston Chronicle.

As a West Virginia injury lawyer I find this trend troubling. It suggests these industries are not putting adequate resources into protecting their workers. The Chronicle reported a decline in deaths in just one state, Wyoming, the only one of eight major states to tap into the energy boom to have “engaged in a sustained state-sponsored effort to reduce workplace fatalities.”

The figures have sparked calls to the Obama administration to launch an initiative to prevent major industry disasters and to address safety problems in the fast-growing oil and gas business.

As well as deaths in the oil and gas industry, worker injuries occur regularly. Last year a fire at an Antero Resource’s natural gas drilling site in Doddridge County, West Virginia injured eight workers.

The Charleston Gazette reported the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is considering expanding its “process safety management,” or PSM, rule, which requires employers to anticipate potential accident scenarios and take steps to avoid such incidents before they occur. OSHA is considering eliminating the PSM rule exemptions for oil and gas drilling and servicing, and for production facilities.

In a letter to OSHA, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board argued that the exemptions for oil and gas industry sites should be eliminated from the PSM rule.

The CSB said its own review discovered 1,285 incidents oil and gas installations between 2009 and February 2014 that resulted in injuries to workers, deaths, evacuation, damage of more than $500,000 to the facilities or “acute environmental damage.”

A separate report suggests the arrival of oil and gas extraction (known as fracking) industries, increase fatalities on roads around sites.

An analysis of traffic deaths and census data in six drilling states found in some places, “fatalities have more than quadrupled since 2004 — a period when most American roads have become much safer even as the population has grown,” stated Associated Press.

Oil and gas extraction has brought increased prosperity to parts of West Virginia but at a high price. The workers in these industries do a valiant job but clearly face danger on a regular basis.

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Compressed Gas Poses a Fatal Hazard

The dangers of compressed gas have been outlined in a report into three accidents at a chemical manufacturing plant in West Virginia (WV) in 2010.

Failures at the DuPont Corporation’s Belle chemical manufacturing plant which included the fatal release of phosgene gas, were outlined in the report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, Fire Engineering reported.

 

The three accidents that occurred on January 22 and 23, 2010, at the West Virginia (WV) plant – including a fatal release of deadly phosgene gas, a chemical used as a chemical weapon in World War One.

In this fatal accident an 58-year-old worker died from exposure to phosgene. The chemical leaked when a braided steel hose attached to a tank ruptured. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s final report followed extensive public consultations.

CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said in the Fire Engineering publication report: “Our final report shows in detail how a series of preventable safety shortcomings — including failure to maintain the mechanical integrity of a critical phosgene hose — led to the accidents. That this happened at a company with DuPont’s reputation for safety should indicate the need for every chemical plant to redouble their efforts to analyze potential hazards and take steps to prevent tragedy.”

The board also released this safety video about the dangers of compressed gas.

When things go wrong in industry the results can be horrific, as seen at this chemical plant. The consequences of deadly mistakes can also be costly for the companies involved. Recently we  reported on how two companies responsible for the faulty construction of an industrial oil heater at a natural gas plant in Texas (TX) were ordered to pay $85 million to survivors of a worker killed after a heater at the plant exploded.

Official investigations into fatal industrial accidents often result in violations or shortcomings being uncovered be it the death of a sanitation worker in a Norfolk, VA truck or the deaths of many miners at a West Virginia (WV) coal mine.

When gas is compressed there is a potential toxicity and asphyxiation danger even in the case of harmless gases such as nitrogen because the compression makes the gas a potential bomb, not to mention a potential legal time bomb for companies that fail to take all necessary precautions.

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