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As the natural gas industry in West Virginia continues to increase, so to do deaths on the job according to new federal government data.
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13 West Virginia oil and gas workers died between 2008 and 2012, which is more than double the previous amount from 2004 to 2008. In addition, the Chemical Safety Board conducted a study that found 1,285 incidents at drilling sites that either resulted in injuries, worker deaths, evacuation orders for residents or damage of more than $500,000 to the sites or environment.
A large reason for the increase in deaths is due to the recent increase of natural gas production in West Virginia and the even more recent rush to tap into the Marcellus Shale reserves. Many of these injuries and fatalities are due to the use of heavy equipment, inexperienced workers, long work shifts, and sometimes dangerous chemicals. Oil and gas companies will often bring on inexperienced workers because the demand for employees has surpassed the number and availability of experienced crew members. These inexperienced workers are often sent to work in harsh conditions with heavy machinery and unfamiliar tools. Employees of the oil and gas industry are also under great pressure to complete these jobs at a fast pace, and as a result, end up working 12 or more hour shifts for weeks without receiving a day off. One of the biggest hazards in the industry are flammable vapors in confined areas, such as a tank, that can be ignited during maintenance, causing fires and explosions.
West Virginia is not alone in seeing an increase in workplace injuries and deaths in the natural gas field. According to recent data, Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania have all seen increases in worker fataliteis. Only one state that is actively engaged in energy production, Wyoming, has seen a decrease in worker deaths. This decline is likely attributable to a state-sponsored effort to reduce workplace fatalities.
When large corporations end up putting profits before their workforce, corners are often cut, leading to carelessness that can cause serious injuries or death. Unfortunately, most of the serious injuries and deaths that do occur can be prevented with better safety preparation and awareness. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of working in the natural gas fields, the attorneys at the Manchin Injury Law Group can help.