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Safety on offshore oil rigs still has a long way to go

Safety has always been a concern on offshore oil rigs and platforms. Modern technology is making great strides in terms of protecting oil company employees. However, given the increasing worldwide demand for this commodity, the safety of workers is still paramount.

The need for speed

In the 1960s and ‘70s, oil companies were building offshore oil rigs and getting them into operation as quickly as possible, often at the cost of worker safety. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey Conservation Division required companies that owned the rigs to install subsurface safety devices. However, there were no technical standards nor testing rules. As a result, accidents and the resulting injuries to workers were common in that era.

A dangerous environment

Explosions and fires are often responsible for fatal accidents on offshore oil rigs. Workers sometimes make mistakes, and others may suffer serious injury or death as a result. Workers from various companies may work together on an oil rig. However, lack of coordination or communication issues among teams can easily lead to accidents and severe injuries. Another potential problem exists when workers arrive at the rig for their shifts. They make the transfer from boat to platform by way of a personnel basket, which can be especially dangerous when seas are running high. In addition, machinery or equipment injuries happen often and can be the result of insufficient training.

New technology at work

Today, deeper wells and taller offshore oil rigs maximize production. An example of the latest technology at work is the Petronius platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Marathon Oil and Chevron operate this free-standing structure, said to be the largest in the world. The rig soars 2,000 feet above the floor of the ocean, and on Petronius, there is much emphasis on worker safety. However, in an industry where people perform their jobs in a unique and potentially hazardous workspace, interdependence is often essential to avoid a catastrophic accident. As any maritime worker will tell you, Injuries still happen despite the most advanced safety precautions.

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