I worked in the oil fields in the mid-1950s, so I have some direct knowledge of what that work and the workers were like — 15 years before OSHA was born.
I’m sure that all the facts in the article are true (and I hate what all those rigs are doing to the land) but I question some of the article’s conclusions (HCN, 4/2/07). I would appreciate a follow-up article that puts the death and injury rate in the energy fields into some perspective.
What is the death rate in other comparable heavy industries where men run immense and powerful machines, such as shipbuilding or construction? When mistakes happen with those machines, it can take only seconds for someone to get very badly hurt.
And what are the rates of death for the same group of men when they are off the job, where a big bad corporation or lax state regulation has no responsibility for their injuries? I have seen oil workers take a lot of risks, both on and off the job, and your article’s mention of D.J. Maser Jr.’s black eyes that he got in a fistfight, the Iriberrys not wearing seat belts, and the widespread use of meth are all pretty good indications that these workers are still risk-takers half a century after my personal experience. Risk-takers tend to get hurt more often, whether on or off the job.
The statistics may be lousy there, too, but they would offer some useful comparisons, and probably soften some of the article’s conclusions and implications.
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