Prayers because we care
Just a few months ago the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a report on oil-and-gas industry deaths in the U.S. and it is significant to note that while raw numbers were much higher than the ten-year period preceding the study window, the new numbers showed an actual death rate significantly lower.
This is because during that period the number of people employed in the field rose considerably.
This is not a big help if you are the loved one of someone in the industry left behind, because the only number mattering to you is one.
But as a barometer of industry safety the numbers are helpful, and the way they break down in the fine print is important as well.
The total number of deaths was 1,189, or 118 per year averaged out.
Two thirds of the deaths were attributed to transportation incidents and contact with equipment, comprising nearly 70 percent of the total.
Fires and explosions were to blame in about 14 percent of cases reported.
Looking a bit closer, the statistics for last year, standing alone, can be more readily parsed. In the sector of the oil-and-gas industry that involves support, which many people are involved with in these parts, there were 93 job-related deaths nationwide in 2014. Ten were due to explosion or fire, which brings us to a tragedy that occurred in Gibson last week.
The 93 dead were, remember, in the service industries related to oil and gas alone, not extraction, like, working on a platform drilling. The number of law enforcement officers killed – like the oil service people, including vehicular accidents and the like – is slightly higher, at 124.
Three workers – both from contract companies – were killed at the Williams Pipeline Company’s compressor station off of Bayou Black Drie.
The cause has yet to be determined, and it will likely be some time before it is known.
So fresh is this tragedy that the mourning has had barely a chance to start in earnest, let alone abate.
Somebody leaves for work in the morning with plans for what will be when work is over that night, maybe with a lunchbox in hand, hopefully has had a chance to give a wave and a kiss. Then the news comes that the plans don’t matter anymore.
The big vacation next year, the barbecue or boil set for the weekend, the chance to finally see that Jurassic Park sequel now that the streaming video or Redbox has it, none of this will come to pass because somehow there was a big noise and a concentration of g-force and there were flames all around.
The death toll at Williams is three. Two more people were injured.
Others, doubtless, will bear scars from the way horrific sounds and visions sear into the brain and its memory.
We talk a lot about the importance of oil and gas to this community, to the region and to the state.
We talk a lot about the importance of the workers, but not as much. Usually we do that when the discussion is about the number of jobs gained or lost, and the workers are mere widgets used for measuring purposes, to determine how we ourselves are affected by by their fortunes, the hiring or the laying off.
How much do we think or talk about the workers in their own context, their personal value and the preciousness of them at a human level?
Do we give a thought, when we see some guy still wearing coveralls sharing a laugh with his wife and kids at Sicily’s or picking up a 12-pack at Nocko’s on Grand Caillou Road, that the job he does to provide rapidly-eroding security for his household is just that dangerous, that life can be snuffed in an instant because at the bottom line the work involves working around volatile compounds, that the earth, jealous of the treasures siphoned from deep in her belly, can have the last say even miles away from the rig or the platform, way inshore at a place like Gibson?
If there is a benefit, no matter how back-handed, that comes from a tragedy like the one at Williams last week, it is the potential that by studying what happened we can prevent other deaths in the future, and all that will come in time.
There is as well the potential that such tragedies will result in the saying of extra prayers, for the ones who are gone and the ones who will be taken in the future, but most of all for all of the ones who work with their hands and their backs to make the nation run, to help make the energy that keeps cars on the road and heat in cold houses.
And prayer, no matter how motivated, is always a good thing.