Welcome to this month’s edition of oilfield safety. This month I’m opting to do a small variation from safety and take the opportunity to branch out and attempt to sing our industry’s praises! After years of being in the oilfield, 52 years to be exact, the oilfield has changed immeasurably. Rules have changed, the pay has certainly changed, and safety has also changed. Along with those changes, values have changed as well. Our industry has saved our backside in wars, police actions, and depressions and recessions.
And now we are labeled as an antiquated industry, and on our way out. We’ve been categorized as has-been’s and bad guys for polluting the earth with no reliable alternative. That hurts my feelings, I need to fill out an accident report, lol, said no oilfield worker ever.
Like I have said too many times over the years, no one likes a change except a baby. Everything is getting politicized, under the guise and disguised as Climate change. Follow the science, they say, like covid and now about climate change. How about following the histrionics.
Over the years I have seen the worst in man and the best. When I started, it was 7 days a week, eight hour shifts with two hours drive- time on each side from San Angelo to the other side of Ft. Stockton. Occasionally I would get to see the kids, and give them a hug, but I did make 3.50 per hour. Not including drive time. We didn’t have FR’s. We furnished our clothes, gloves and lunches in a lunch pail. And the safety training was “look out for each other and don’t be stupid.” Strangely enough that worked and was effective.
Drugs and alcohol were prevalent. Most workers would sleep it off going to work and get rested coming back. For the first 10 years, I saw only a few mashed fingers and lots of strained backs. Then in the 80’s as safety was slowly evolving, only hampered by the downturns. The introduction of drugs was gaining prevalence.
Safety became increasingly mandated by the powers that be, thank goodness. Accidents were becoming more prevalent and more serious. Insurance rising at a rapid pace due to lawsuits and cost to do business. There was still risk. The guardian was mainly the driller. Sometimes safety was discouraged by an overzealous toolpusher. Then we started seeing more “safety-dudes,” as I called them. There might have been more terminologies and names. Worthless was the main name for the safety personnel. They knew the rules and regulations, but they didn’t know the business. The only time you saw them was either when investors or OSHA was in the area. They didn’t know much then, either. The safety guy would “don” his clean white hardhat and make a few recommendations. Then hop back into his ford Galaxy 500 and make a few more disparaging remarks and drive off. Ultimately we lost our safety bonus and/or lost our job.
And people often in today’s world wonder why safety personnel had a bad reputation.
The good news is, personnel that are now in safety are educated and now know their business and the business that they work for. No more slide projectors that wouldn’t work half the time, there were people that had actually worked in the oilfield and knew what was dangerous and what wasn’t. Training became more advanced and rewarding safety became more prevalent. The education level was rising with technology. Safety men started getting degrees in their intended field with specializations. Hiring practices opened up equal opportunities for different races. Real progress was being made. OSHA actually started visiting the field more often. International companies started importing qualified personnel with the need for more oil and gas expertise for the world industry. Research developed new ways for byproducts with oil derivatives. Research developed new ways to make energy faster, better and cleaner. We had experienced shortages and oil gluts, downturns and upturns.
No And now a few billionaires are politically backing alternate methods of energy. This reminds me of ‘the worms’ and ignorance back in the 70’s who didn’t know what they were doing because they didn’t know anything. They’ve not pulled a wet string during freezing temperatures. Nor worked 8-16 hours in the heat to feed their family. This, all the while they are using a little over 6,000 petroleum by products every day. Flying to their meetings overseas to talk about how to save the planet. So when this all goes down the tubes, we can look back and say, boy howdy, remember when we had that nasty oil.
We, in the oil and gas business have always strived to make our business cleaner, better, more efficient and spent money on alternate solutions. But to suffer and perpetuate this immediate need to demonize our industry and/or our motives is a hard pill to swallow.
Kudos to the men and women in this industry. Be safe. Dusty
Dusty Roach is a safety professional based in Midland. He is also a public speaker on subjects of leadership and safety, and he maintains a personal website at dustyroach.com.