South Texas Oil and Gas Companies’ Safety Violations Result in Workers’ Deaths


Julio Barrera, a 25-year-old father with another baby on the way, noticed the derrick tower he was supposed to climb for work was moving, but he was told he would be fired if he didn’t go up. The tower swayed and fell to the ground, crushing and killing him. His widow sued the company that owned the derrick and reached a confidential settlement.

Barrera is one of at least 11 oilfield employees killed while working for drilling companies in the Eagle Ford Shale counties in South Texas since 2009. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency that regulates workplace safety, used the Freedom of Information Act, which allows anyone to request previously unpublished federal agency records, to discover that there were safety violations at every one of these sites, meaning those deaths may have been preventable. These 11 deaths represent one-third of the fatalities investigated by OSHA in the Texas oil and gas industry since 2009.

OSHA requirements

Some general regulations OSHA requires oil and gas drilling and extraction companies to follow include:

  • Prevent slips and falls — Workers are required to wear protective equipment, such as hard hats, goggles, gloves and hard shoes, and guardrails, ladders, stairs and passageways must be clear and maintained
  • Prevent burning and welding injuries — Workers performing hot work that is flammable must test for gas, make sure there are no fire hazards and have equipment nearby to put out a fire
  • Prevent hydrogen sulfide injuries — Workers must be trained to detect the toxic substance and wear respiratory equipment, and exit routes must be established
  • Prevent rigging up injuries — Workers preparing a rig for drilling must be properly trained in safely operating vehicles and heavy machinery
  • Prevent drilling injuries — Proper ventilation and eyewash stations must be established and workers must be properly trained in safely handling ropes, chains and hooks, staying clear of hanging loads and wearing protective gear.

Jobs in the oil and gas industry come with hefty paychecks. However, this is because they are dangerous, and accidents often result in severe injuries or death.

Posted in Oil Spill | Tagged eagle ford shale, oil drilling, toxic substances, work injuries