A Wyoming state safety commission on Oct. 5, 2013 approved two new workplace safety provisions for workers in the oil, gas and energy fields.
The new provisions require all workers within 75-feet of a well bore to wear flame-resistant clothing and all diesel engines within the same distance to be equipped with a shut-off device.
Wearing flame-resistant gear is nothing new for employees of larger energy companies. Companies like BP and Chesapeake Energy have required it for years. It prevents workers’ compensation claims, acts as cheap insurance and allows employees to go home to their families at night, said Dennis Shepard, a member of the safety commission.
Nearly 20 representatives from many of the state’s energy companies attended the meeting on adopting the resolutions.
One of the biggest complaints from smaller companies was the price of the new gear. “Cost is a big consideration,” said Ken Lantta, a board member on the Wyoming Oil and Gas Industry Safety Alliance. “The reality is that most of our member companies are using [flame-resistant clothes].”
In addition to adopting the new measures the commission ruled that all parties with a stake in the work being completed are responsible for ensuring flame-resistant clothing is being worn.
Previously, the onus was on the operator.
The producers weren’t keeping up and now they are forced to do so, Shepard said.
An internal survey of the state’s oil and gas safety committee found 78 percent of members already had a flame-resistant clothing requirement and 69.1 percent felt flame-resistant clothing should be mandatory on a rig
The call for an emergency shut-off device for all diesel engines within a 75 feet radius of a drilling rig stemmed from the fact that 23 people have died and more than 190 others have incurred injury in the oil and gas industry due to running diesel engines since 2005.
However, some argue the new provision is not enough.
This safety provision is still lacking compared to Canada who implemented similar legislation in 1971, said Jogen Bhalla, vice president of AMOT, a thermostatic valve company that makes safety devices.
The deficiencies Bhalla point to revolve around the commission not mandating safety shut off devices in “vehicular” and “mobile” engines within the danger zone.
“80 percent of accidents happen with vehicles,” he said.
The commission will work on implementing the all-engine requirement in the coming year.