Last week, we discussed how a federal judge had approved a $20 billion settlement for victims of BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill. The Deepwater spill is considered the worst environmental catastrophe in history, and nothing like it must ever be allowed to happen again. BP’s negligence killed 11 workers and sent millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Department of the Interior (specifically the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement) recently announced new regulations that may help prevent another major disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Under the new rules, outside agencies will conduct annual assessments of blowout preventers (BOPs). BOPs are responsible for preventing the buildup of underground pressure caused by explosive hydrocarbons. During the Deepwater incident, a faulty BOP failed to seal a sudden surge of natural gas, which ignited and caused the explosion. With regular assessments of blowout preventers conducted by outside agencies, it would be difficult for rig operators to continue drilling with faulty equipment. BOPs will also be outfitted with additional equipment to act as a backup in case of failure.
New regulations would also require constant video monitoring of high-pressure and risky drilling activities. Undersea video recordings would be streamed to experts watching onshore. Finally, offshore rigs will operate under ‘safe drilling margins’. This would keep offshore rigs from drilling through high pressure wells (like Deepwater Horizon did right before the explosion).
Does the Oil Industry Have a Poor History of Workplace Safety?
Offshore drilling would not be considered dangerous if companies took workplace safety more seriously. As we pointed out last week, a federal judge claimed the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened because BP ignored several safety warnings. However, it is not as if BP is the only oil company with a poor history of workplace safety. There are good reasons the Department of Interior has pushed for additional offshore rig safety rules.
Interior Department statistics show that since the Deepwater Horizon incident, there have been 1,066 injuries and 496 fires on offshore rigs. Workers and their families deserve better. No family should ever have to be told their mother, father, son, daughter, husband or wife will not be returning home due to a preventable catastrophe.
Galloway Jefcoat is a Lafayette personal injury law firm dedicated to helping the victims of unsafe workplaces.