Tribune Opinion: Oil and gas industry needs fix for cold weather safety issues |

Tribune Opinion: Oil and gas industry needs fix for cold weather safety issues

A fire burns Friday night at an active oil and gas site near Colo. 392 and Weld County Road 21, east of Windsor. The fire resulted from an explosion at the site.

Safety in the oil and gas industry has come a long way in the past 30 years.

Gone are the days when deaths from accidents and fires at drilling sites were common occurrences. Now when a tragedy occurs, it's out of the ordinary. It's notable news.

And that, obviously, is a good thing.

But, with that said, it's become clear the oil and gas industry has a problem.

More specifically, a cold weather problem.

In the past couple months there have been three accidents related to the oil and gas industry that have resulted in injury or death.

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Three contract workers were injured Nov. 16 and one later died after an explosion and fire while working on a pipeline near Weld County Road 71 and Colo. 392. An explosion Dec. 22 at an active oil and gas site just east of Windsor resulted in the injury of someone working the site. Two days later, an oil and gas tanker exploded at a gas station in New Raymer, injuring the driver.

All three of these accidents were different in nature, but all three are part of a trend that suggests oil and gas accidents increase in the cold weather.

Though he hasn't kept statistics, New Raymer Fire Chief Leroy Warboys told The Tribune there's truth in that trend.

"In years past with cold weather, we have more oil and gas accidents because we have pipeline ruptures when everything freezes," Warboys said.

According to Warboys, when water lines freeze, oil and gas lines can back up as a result and rupture. Fittings also contract when it gets cold, which can lead to leaks. And with the volatile nature of crude oil, it's not hard for a fire to follow in either scenario.

Lastly, Warboys said, cold weather can lead to employees being less than diligent when following safety precautions.

All three of these factors easily can lead to an increase in cold-weather accidents, and all three seem logical when trying to figure out why accidents increase in winter.

What's harder to find logically is a solution.

Getting employees to carefully follow safety precautions seems like an attainable goal, but lines freezing and fittings shrinking are inevitable laws of science in cold weather.

Still, this trend is too disturbing to just ignore. And with as far as oil and gas development has come in the past 30 years in terms of safety, it would be a shame if cold weather became a stumbling block, especially in an industry so important to our local economy.

So, while we might not have an answer, we hope industry officials are working hard to find one.

— Tribune Editorial Board


The Tribune Editorial Board decides and writes the Tribune Opinion. Its members are:

» Bryce Jacobson, publisher”>Text”>

» Randy Bangert, editor and editorial page editor”>Text”>

» Jerry Martin, copy desk chief and sports editor”>Text”>

» Bart Smith, general manager”>Text”>

» Nate A. Miller, interim managing editor”>Text”>

» Dan England, features editor”>Text”>

» Kelly Geary, digital marketing project manager”>Text”>

» Amy Mayer, creative supervisor”>Text”>