Safeguarding our Most Important Asset: Our Workforce

People often talk about the importance of safety in virtually all facets of our everyday lives. From driving a car to feeling secure in our surroundings, safety is a core value that we all want – and need – to experience.

Earlier this month, the American Petroleum Institute released new recommended practices for maintaining safe and healthy working conditions for workers in drilling and well servicing. The actual content, while fascinating to me, might not interest many folks who don’t work in that particular field. But it did get me thinking about the seriousness with which we take workplace and operational safety in the oil and gas industry.

Work in our industry is a complex and demanding industrial operation, which makes our exemplary safety record both an imperative and a source of pride – because we work hard to make it that way. Simply put, safety isn’t just something we’re regulated to do, it’s a business imperative and core value of our entire industry.

Producers and refiners apply numerous self-imposed safety measures designed to provide maximum protection to communities, workers and the environment. These include extensive employee and contractor safety training, consistent use of appropriate safety equipment, ongoing safety reviews, frequent inspections, emergency response plans and open dialogues with local leaders for continuous improvement.

And that’s before the government regulations. Companies within the energy sector conform to extensive oversight and regulations from more than a dozen federal, state, regional and local agencies. As an example, California’s production facilities and refineries operate under the most stringent and comprehensive government regulations and industry business standards. This, coupled with the industry’s ongoing focus on safety, has led to the state maintaining an excellent safety record that continues to improve.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, refining is one of the safest industrial activities in the country, with fewer worker injuries than sectors such as education, retail sales, and financial services. A recent comprehensive Workplace Safety Report by the American Petroleum Institute shows that occupational injuries and illness in gas and oil production occurs at a substantially lower rate than comparable industries rate and continues to decline. Oil and gas industry safety initiatives are recognized by the chief authorities on safety, including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

I’m proud of the work our industry does to help deliver tomorrow’s sustainable energy future. But I also recognize that we are never “done” when it comes to improving and working towards new goals – in safety, environmental performance, and more. The safety and well-being of our people and our communities require constant vigilance, investment and innovation, and the results are more than worth it.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd is the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and oversees the trade organization’s operations and advocacy in five states. You can follow her on Twitter @WSPAprez. 

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