One of the earliest and most prolific oil discoveries in Oklahoma occurred just outside of Cushing, Okla., in 1912. The then-small but thriving town grew quickly as the oil industry firmly planted roots in what is known today as the pipeline crossroads of the world. In those early years of discovery and drilling, the Cushing-Drumright field produced 20 million to 50 million barrels a year. Today, Cushing remains at the center of focus in the oil industry and was even one of President Obama’s stops during the 2012 presidential campaign.
Photo courtesty of Bloomberg
For those supporting production, storage or drilling onsite, oilfields, however, can be a very dangerous place. In fact, the U.S. national safety council says non-fatal work related injuries are 49 percent higher for those employed in the oil and gas industry that all other U.S. industries combined. The injuries sustained are also more likely to be more severe.
“The most common injuries are crush injuries resulting in contaminated wounds and broken bones,” says Hillcrest Hospital Cushing ER Manager Suzy Brown-Hightower. “We have seen several injuries from high pressure lines that are either air or paint. Paint or air injected into the tissues is extremely dangerous and very painful. These injuries require immediate attention.”
Eye injuries from foreign objects are among the most common injuries suffered in the oilfields, along with injuries to the hand and fingers, by slips and falls. Brown-Hightower says that any injuries sustained in the oilfields, other than minor abrasions, should be checked out immediately. “All injuries that result in skin damage need to be immediately cleaned, and that probably should be done in an ER,” she says.
These injuries often result from human error or equipment failure. It is critical to follow all safety precautions while working in an oilfield. To help protect yourself from injury or death, wear protective gear like helmets, steel-toed boots, gloves and safety glasses. Check equipment to make sure it is working properly before operating. Taking these steps can help keep you safe and save your life. Experts say that as many as 80 percent of oilfield injuries could be prevented if proper safety precautions are taken.