CSB to OSHA: Extend PSM standard to onshore oil and gas drilling


Photo: Chemical Safety Board

Washington — Onshore oil and gas wells need appropriate well planning and control measures in place to “mitigate the potential for the ignition of flammable material,” the Chemical Safety Board says.

The recommendation is one of many in the board’s recently released final report on a January 2020 fire at the Wendland oil well in Texas’ Burleson County.

Three workers died and another suffered serious injuries after an ignition of hydrocarbons triggered a flash fire. Investigators found that the well operator and its contractors failed to enact thorough planning and control measures, leading to the release of the hydrocarbons.

CSB says insufficient industry guidance on well control for wells in an underpressured reservoir also contributed to the incident.

The agency renews its call on OSHA to either extend its standard on process safety management to the drilling of onshore oil and gas wells, customize it to oil and gas drilling operations, or create a new standard.

Addressing the report during a Jan. 25 CSB public business meeting, investigator-in-charge Harold Griffin said OSHA “has historically exempted” onshore oil and gas drilling from its standards on PSM and lockout/tagout (1910.147) despite it being a high-risk industry.

Griffin added: “As a result, there are minimal regulations that govern onshore oil and gas drilling and servicing operations despite prior attempts to promulgate special rules for this industry.”

CSB also recommends that companies with onshore oil and gas operations incorporate ignition source risk assessments in organizational policies while following industry regulations on the placement of ignition sources.

“As the U.S. continues to expand domestic energy production, both industry and the federal government must ensure that onshore oil and gas operations are conducted safely and under proper oversight,” CSB Chair Steve Owens said in a press release. “Three workers died because adequate steps were not taken to prevent this blowout and the fire that resulted.”

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Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication