CSB Again Calls for Increased Safeguards at Oil and Gas Sites

Nov. 1, 2010
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recent distributed educational materials concerning oil site hazards that threaten the lives of teenagers to more than 150 Mississippi school superintendents. CSB is calling on schools across the state to incorporate the video and lessons into school curricula.

The project’s aim is to save the lives of teenagers in rural areas who often socialize at oil and gas production and storage sites and who are seemingly unaware of the explosion hazards. The products include the CSB’s safety video, "No Place to Hang Out: The Danger of Oil Sites," and a lesson plan to be incorporated into school curricula across the state.

The “No Place to Hang Out” video was released in April and tells the story of the tragic deaths of 18-year-old Wade White and 16-year-old Devon Byrd. The two boys were killed Oct. 31, 2009, when an oil tank located in a clearing in the woods near one of the boys’ homes in Carnes, Miss., exploded.

“As the 1-year anniversary of this tragic accident approaches, the CSB is committed to doing whatever we can to help schools across the state of Mississippi develop and implement an effective oil tank safety campaign,” said CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso. “Our goal, which we are certain is shared by school superintendents, is to be able to reach as many young people as possible in order to save the lives of teenagers exposed to this hazard.”

CSB Investigator Vidisha Parasram added, “This video directly focuses on educating teenagers and young people. The CSB decided that a video aimed at this age group would be the best way to spread a strong safety message, especially if accompanied by a lesson plan and discussion.”

Following the accident in Mississippi, CSB found similar accidents have occurred at rural oil and gas sites in states across the country, killing and injuring children, teenagers and young adults. CSB found 26 similar accidents at such sites resulting in 44 fatalities among teenagers and young adults between 1983 and 2010. Since 2003, oil and gas site explosions caused 16 deaths to members of the public, all of whom were under 25 years of age.

As a result of these findings, CSB convened a task force to look into state and federal rules and regulations governing the safety and security of oil and gas production sites. The task force will release its final case study in early 2011.

“If this educational campaign can help save the life of one teenager, it will be worth the effort,” said Moure-Eraso.

In August, Moure-Eraso called on Mississippi legislators and officials to increase safeguards at the oil sites during a meeting of stakeholders convened by State Senator Billy Hudson to discuss the possible introduction of a bill requiring public safety measures at oil and gas sites. In September, the Board of Supervisors of Forrest County, Miss., passed an ordinance requiring appropriate critical security measures, including fencing and signage, be placed around hazardous oil sites. CSB strongly applauded this action.

CSB’s task force continues to examine state regulations that require specific safeguards at oil and gas sites. The task force has found that in some areas of California, sites are required to have barbed wire fencing around facilities where it is necessary to protect life and property. Similarly, Colorado and Ohio require fencing of oil and gas production sites in urban or populated areas.

The CSB task force has identified a lack of consistent state or municipal regulations for perimeter fencing, gates, locks and warning signage. Such safeguards would deter public access to the sites and prevent the accidental ignition of vapor from storage tanks. The CSB task force’s final report will address this lack of regulation.

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