Last week, the Interior Department conducted surprise inspections on about 40 offshore platforms and drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. More than 50 inspectors were sent to examine giant cranes used in oil and gas operations to transport workers and supplies from the Gulf to the decks of platforms.
Ryan Zinke, the Interior Secretary, announced the need for an inspection push after a series of potentially fatal crane and lifting incidents took place on platforms and drilling rigs last year. Unfortunately, results of these inspections found major problems, some of which were said to potentially be life threatening. Currently, lifting-related accidents remain the second-largest cause of offshore fatalities.
The Interior Department and its offshore safety bureau were ordered by President Trump to re-evaluate regulations set in place during the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon accident. Offshore oil and gas operators complained that these regulations had been excessive.
The regulatory review focuses on two safety rules that conduct offshore drilling and the production of oil and gas. However, the advancement of deregulation has caused progress on finalizing other safety rules to taper.
According to the New York Times, many of the independent companies who championed the regulatory rollbacks had been cited for workplace safety violations at a much higher rate than average for the industry. Despite comments such as Brian Salerno’s that “no one wants to face the family of a worker who dies or is severely injured because we didn’t do our jobs correctly, or because we failed to recognize that the risks present on site were beyond acceptable bounds,” the rate of lift-related offshore incidents last year rose by more than 4 percent. Last year, there was, on average, one accident for every 13.5 offshore platforms or drilling rigs.
Arena Offshore, Energy XXI, and Fieldwood Energy are a few of the companies that had multiple lift-related accidents. In 2016, these three companies lobbied the Interior Department to weaken offshore federal regulations.
The crane inspections are part of an effort to shit focus away from routine scheduling and onto risks, instead. This would mean, for example, that inspectors would examine known hazards, such as gas leaks. Several offshore operators received noncompliance notices as a result of last week’s inspections. These notices could result in fines.