I have heard several people in the community discuss the changes that are coming to our area due to the gas drilling in the Marcellas shale fields. Bradford County Pennsylvania is in the heart of the fields. Community leaders and business people are trying to determine some of the positive as well as the negative changes that will be coming to our communities due to the influx in money as well as traffic and workers.
With this in mind, I recently saw a news article from the Associated Press indicating that oil field and gas field worker deaths are on the rise sharply. At least 598 workers died on the job between 2002 and 2007 according to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. During that period, the number of deaths per year rose by around 70% from around 72 victims in 2002 to 125 in 2006 and a preliminary count of 120 in 2007.
Many of the deaths happened in Texas which is the nation’s largest producer of crude oil and natural gas. There are several factors to blame for the increase in work related oil field and gas field deaths, including: a dramatic increase in drilling spurred by the record breaking oil and natural gas prices; an influx of new workers hired to operate all the new rigs: a high pressure environment where workplace safety lapses are common; rampant drug and alcohol use among workers.
Many experienced oil field workers left the industry in the mid 1980's during the oil bust, when a barrel sold for less than $10.00. Now, with prices over $100.00 a barrel, many drilling companies are hiring workers with little or no experience.