From The Denver Post:
Concerned about fracking safety? Look at the numbers
Critics of Colorado’s oil and gas sector certainly don’t lack for creativity. Their latest ploy is a media campaign that paints the industry as dangerous and unconcerned with the safety of its workers.
What’s strange about this narrative is how brazenly it contradicts the facts. Coloradans are more likely to get injured bartending than they are working for an energy company. In fact, it’s hard to think of industry that does more to protect its workers’ safety than the oil and gas sector.
Even though domestic energy production has reached all-time highs, the industry’s safety record is improving. From 2003 to 2013, the onshore energy workforce doubled in size, and the number of drilling rigs increased by 71 percent. Between 2005 and 2014, meanwhile, the injury and illness rate for the U.S. oil and natural gas industry fell 41 percent.
Do workers suffer injuries on the job? Of course they do. But compared to other industries, oil and gas companies are among the safest businesses to work for — despite the big rigs and heavy machinery involved in production. In 2014, the oil and gas sector averaged 2.1 injuries and illnesses for every 100 workers. That’s significantly lower than the national average of 3.2 per hundred.
The industry’s safety record is no accident. Consider the wide array of training and certification programs that energy employees complete. That process relies on a detailed curriculum that includes hands-on training with equipment and exams on critical safety information.
Of course, some reply, as the technologies employed by energy firms grow more sophisticated, safety measures can become obsolete or insufficient. This is certainly true, which is why the energy sector is constantly issuing new standards and upgrading existing ones.
In the past few years alone, the industry has increased safety inspections at refineries, implemented standards to prevent spills during oil tank transfers, and announced a new pipeline safety management standard — with input from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Oil and gas companies also collect safety data that can be measured against U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics metrics. This allows the energy industry to track its progress on safety and identify areas for improvement.
But energy jobs aren’t just safe; they’re lucrative. Here in Colorado, average industry wages are almost $34,000 higher than our state’s mean salary. In fact, the average Coloradan working specifically in energy extraction and production earns more than $118,000 a year.
The benefits of the domestic energy boom aren’t confined to oil and gas workers. All told, oil and gas companies contribute $26 billion to the state economy annually — that’s about 9 percent of state GDP.
The oil and gas industry’s impressive safety record and high salaries may not serve the purposes of anti-fracking campaigners. But for the rest of Colorado, it’s good news indeed.
Regina Thomson is president of the Colorado Issues Coalition.