Permian Basin Bosting Economy and Work-Related Injuries

Since the oil price crash of 2014, oil production is at a peak and the consistent drilling activity in West Texas has created an economic upswing. Oil-field related businesses are locating to the area and thousands of jobs are being created. It’s estimated that the average pay for employees in the oil industry is roughly $100,000 per year but salaries can vary widely depending on skill sets. As the demand for oil is increasing, oil-field related injuries and deaths are also increasing. There is a range of injuries occurring and some of these are caused by roadside deaths as the usage of bigger trucks increase, safety codes that are not being enforced as more employees enter the industry, and according to The Chron, there is even a rise of drug abuse in the oil-booming Permian Basin.

18-Wheelers make up a huge part of the oil-field industry. Every day thousands of trucks and semis are transporting flammable substances and equipment to work sites. It’s simple; more semis on roads equal to a more hazardous driving environment. Accidents and traffic jams increase, affecting drivers from surrounding cities. In addition, young drivers behind the wheel, with little to no professional experience also contribute to this hazard. Young drivers are attracted by the benefits of the truck-driving industry but just because you get the job doesn’t necessarily mean you are qualified for the job. In order to try and keep roads safe, The State Impact reported that authorities in the Midland area are keeping a sharp eye on industry’s drivers by increasing police presence especially on more active roads and focusing mainly on commercial fleets. But as of right now experts call traffic accidents the leading cause of death for oil workers.

In addition, oil industries are paying less attention to safety training. As oil production is increasing new employees are needed to start immediately. This often means training and safety procedures are swept under the rug.  Accidents in the oil industry are dependent on the industry itself, so injuries can easily be prevented.

A lack of regulation also contributes to poor safety procedures in the oil-fields. Odessa American reported, that OSHA faces a number of challenges when tackling oil-field safety inspections. For one, there is a shortage of OSHA workers to meet the oil demand. The Permian Basin has less than the average 12 inspectors per office, and as more workers are drawn to the oil-field comes more work-time, and with that trend comes an increase of accidents.

Despite all the economic benefits of the oil-field industries, the boom is also supporting an expanding market for illegal drugs. This does not apply to all oil-field employees but among the thousands of workers, the mix of money makes it easy to want to live a “lavish” lifestyle simply out of boredom. In West Texas, the choice of drug for oil-field workers is methamphetamine or crystal meth. It is considered a stimulant and The Chron reports that oil-field workers are using meth to cope with the long work hours, especially when out in the Texas heat. The Texas Department of  Public Safety saw a strong correlation between the rise of drilling activity in the Permian Basin and the number of times state troopers seized crystal meth during traffic stops or large-scale drug busts. And as the oil companies dispatched more rigs, that number of meth seizures rose sharply.

Many large oil companies claim to have adapted tougher drug-testing policies but substance abuse specialists believe drug-test failure figures grossly underestimate the number of oil field workers who abuse drugs such as methamphetamine, which only lingers in a person’s system for a couple days. And if caught using drugs many oil-field workers can simply require a job through another oil company. This problem can be unfair to those field workers who do follow safety precautions and in result to other’s drug abuse, they can get hurt.

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