In April 2010 we witnessed the explosion of a BP drilling rig, which resulted in a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The government eventually estimated that the oil spill amounted to approximately five million barrels of oil. This was definitely the largest accidental spill in the American history. Moreover, eleven workers died. These facts really show that offshore jobs can be quite dangerous.
A year past from the explosion and the gulf spill, and what comes to many people’s mind today is the question of whether offshore jobs are safer now? Was anything done to remedy the situation?
The government took the commitment to make the offshore drilling jobs safer by putting in place a new set of safeguards. There was a clear need for new rules and regulations that would aim to tighten standards for well design, safety certification, blowout preventers and emergency response. In addition, new rules on worker training were also an issue.
Many things in this respect were done. However, overall the situation in the offshore drilling industry has not yet been fixed.
The American federal agency responsible for policing and standard-setting in offshore drilling was reformed and it took the lead in creating a framework that would guarantee safer offshore jobs. But even its representatives acknowledged that many years have to pass before a strong regulatory regime that will be able to minimize the risks to offshore drilling workers and a guarantee of a safer environment can actually be created. For example, those advocating for a clean environment are permanently criticizing the agency, emphasizing that little has been done, but some cosmetic changes. At the same time, the offshore drilling representatives pointed out that the federal agency lost its fundamental mission that is to promote and develop the country’s offshore oil and gas resources.
The presidential commission that was created to investigate the BP explosion scrutinized also the regulatory drawbacks that contributed to the accident. In its report, the commission concluded that the federal agency lacks necessary resources but also training and professional experience in the specific area, which is absolutely critical to guarantee that offshore drilling is being conducted in a safe and accountable way.
The statistics show that accident rates for offshore drilling jobs are higher in the USA than for example in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Norway. This can be partly explained by the fact that in those states new rules referring to major accidents are effective Thus, new legislation must be put in place by experienced people who really do know what they are doing.