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Safety Expert Says Training Probably Saved Lives

As investigators begin their work at the offshore drilling rig that exploded and caught fire late Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico, several rig operation and safety experts say frequent training probably saved lives. Jack Williams reports.


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The semi-submersible “Deepwater Horizon” is owned by Houston-based Transocean and operated under a lease agreement by BP. Most of the 126 crew members aboard the floating rig were able to get off the rig safely. John Manders spent many years in the Gulf and says rigs like “Deepwater Horizon” are held to strict safety standards.

“They are very thoroughly regulated and they have on-board safety representatives who are trained, who their only task is checking on safety and ensuring that the rig is working safely.”

Although the investigation into what happened hasn’t really started yet, Manders says his best guess would be a gas-related explosion.

“This more than likely was caused by the gas in the well coming up from below the sea bed. They must have encountered a pocket of gas that they weren’t able to control and it exploded.” 

Jim Wilkinson, a former rig operator in the Gulf and now a consultant in New Orleans, says the danger associated with working in the Gulf isn’t a secret.

“Oh, it’s very well-known and there are elaborate training activities. There’s an elaborate testing system that every person who working on the drill floor or has responsibility for activities on the drill floor has to go through training, well control training, and there are records kept of all that.”
Wilkinson says a better understanding rig safety over the past 20 years has helped cut the number of fires and explosions, which used to be far more frequent.

Rig fire