Federal Authorities Call for Stronger Safety Measures after Oil Rig Explosion

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are calling for stronger safety measures aboard oil platforms after an explosion on a Lake Pontchartrain oil rig left multiple workers injured and one worker missing. Five workers sustained critical burns from the blast, while two others sustained trauma-related injuries. A search-and-rescue mission was sent out for the missing employee, whose body was recovered five days after the explosion. The explosion occurred on October 15th, two miles from Kenner and around twenty miles north of New Orleans in an incorporated area of Jefferson Parish.

According to the City of Kenner Government, the platform (used for the transfer of oil) ignited because of cleaning chemicals that were not sufficiently hosed off. The explosion could be heard from miles away and houses up to 10 blocks away “actually shook from the boom.” Many of the employees on the platform were rescued subsequent to the explosion as fires continued to burn on the platform.

The environmental impact of the explosion is yet to be determined. The Coast Guard will continue to test the surrounding waters to determine if large amounts of oil were deposited into Lake Pontchartrain. Many Kenner residents have gone to social media to voice their concerns about the potential future environmental impacts of the explosion. Lake Pontchartrain is part of a larger ecosystem called the Pontchartrain Basin, an area consisting of many rivers, bayous, and swamps that could potentially be impacted by oil from the explosion. South Louisiana citizens are fearful of a similar situation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster seven years ago.

Explosions similar to this one may become the norm in the near future as experts have recently begun to predict oil spills and explosions to occur more frequently. The Gulf Coast experienced an outburst of oil rigs in the early 2000’s. These same oil rigs are currently in use throughout the Gulf Coast region due to the large expense of building new rigs. The longer oil companies keep these rigs in production, the more likely explosions and spills are to occur.

Oil companies’ focus has turned to production rather than safety as the platforms have become the most lucrative sites for production, creating a potential recipe for disaster. The platforms are producing oil day and night creating more situations for the rigs systems to fail. Large oil companies continually pledge to create safer working environments and enforce stricter safety measures soon after these explosions, though such safety pledges are often short lived, as companies tend to revert back to pre-explosion conditions as they seek ideal production.

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