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CSB report calls for safety change in onshore oil, gas well drilling

Board urges OSHA to develop effective oversight into industry hazards

Posted June 18, 2019

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has released its final investigation report into the blowout that fatally injured five workers at a gas well in Oklahoma in January 2018. The report identifies a lack of regulations governing onshore drilling safety as well as shortcomings in safety management systems and industry standards utilized by the industry. It also calls on regulators, industry groups, the state of Oklahoma, and companies to address such gaps.

According to the CSB, industry best practices recommend always having two protective barriers in place during drilling operations to stop a blowout. Its investigation found that both of those barriers failed. The report outlines several factors contributing to the loss of barriers including a lack of planning, training, equipment, skills, and procedures. The CSB also found that the drilling contractor failed to maintain an effective alarm system, which it says contributed to workers being unaware that flammable gas was entering the well during operations before the incident.

The CSB says its investigation revealed that there are no regulations specifically developed for onshore oil and gas well drilling. Because oil and gas well drilling is exempted from OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard which governs safety for chemical processing facilities, OSHA has been using the General Duty Clause. The CSB urges OSHA to develop effective oversight that addresses the hazards unique to the onshore drilling industry.

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