April 21st, 2010
12:45 PM ET

Velshi: Rigs are some of the safest places

CNN's Ali Velshi was on a rig once when it was evacuated.

As someone who has been around the oil industry, been on a rig and even been evacuated from one during an emergency, I know about the safety issues on rigs and how they are handled.

An explosion on a rig is a rare occurrence because fires don't generally start on rigs and are easily and quickly contained when they do.  But this time there was one - and at least 11 people are missing and seven are critically injured after an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Knowing that help is often some hours away by ship or helicopter, rigs have to be able to manage any emergency and all of them have trained firefighters at the ready at all times.

They also have effective means by which to contain areas with fires and nothing flammable is allowed on board (including smoking.)

Safety training happens at least daily for every person on the rig, and there is a zero tolerance policy for even minute breaches. Rigs are some of the safest places to be.

Which is what makes the explosion on the oil rig in the Gulf all the more unexpected and means it was likely one that happened very fast.

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  1. Roughneck

    Dude...Safest Places to Be?? Seriously? You've never been on a rig...if you had you would see an awful lot of danger around. Everywhere! While Safety is always #1, accidents happen..they always do. Daily safety meetings, evacuation drills, and attention to detail only help to minimize the danger. But it's still there..24 hours a day...365 days a year. This is a terrible tragedy and we can only hope for the best. These men, young and old, work their tails in the ground every day to supply the nation with energy. Please respect these missing men.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Phl OBrien

    Also should be noted that the rigs have standby vessels on hand for emergencies. Been on the rigs as well and safe as they are accidents can happen. At onshore drilling sites you'll seldom see a car parked nose in–most of the rig hands back in and for a reason.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. george white

    these offshore accidents only occur once in a decade, it is not nearly as dangerous working offshore as it is driving on a busy interstate highway or a freeway.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. D.J.

    Having lived all my life in an "oil town", I can say that the oil drilling and production platforms are extremely safe. But with man and nature, extremes can sometimes happen. I just hope this accident chang the adminstration's decision to open up more drilling in the eastern gulf and Atlantic coasts. We desperatly need to reduce dependence on foreign oil . This is an industry ready to work.. Let's put men and women to work.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bisqueen23

    Thank you. I was born and raised and live in Lafayette, LA, a few miles from the coast as the crow flies and have grown up with the oil industry. You are absolutely correct about daily safety meetings and the need for accident prevention in such isolated areas. While an incident of this nature and magnatude is a rarity in the oil industry, it is frightening to all of us in this area as so many of our loved ones work offshore. The photos I have seen this morning are horrific, but hopefully all will eventually be found safe and sound and those who have been injured with recover. Say a prayer.

    April 21, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Angie

    BP operates the rig. With the dismal safety record they have its no wonder that something like this happened. 15 dead in 2005 in Texas City and maybe 11 dead now. working for an oil company is getting to be just as lethal as working in a coal mine.

    April 21, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Gary P.

    I worked on offshore oil rigs for many years, and can guarantee them to be one of the safest environments in which to work. I was once on a rig that was celebrating its eleventh year without a single lost-time accident.

    April 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Keith H.

    Smoking is allowed on the rigs, although in designated areas.

    Lighters are not allowed, they use matches.

    April 21, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dale F

    BP was NOT the operator, it was contracted by BP but operated by Trans Ocean, so the comment about its no wonder that something like this happened is way out of line. Offshore drilling and production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico are the most safest places to work. I have been in the oil and gas business for the past 20 years and have seen the evolution of the safety aspect. I have also done extensive time offshore on both drilling and production facilities. CNN's quote that "They also have effective means by which to contain areas with fires and nothing flammable is allowed on board (including smoking.)" is simply incorrect. Offshore facilities do allow smoking in designated areas, usually inside the quarters (in a designated smoking room) or outside in a designated area. These areas are well away from any exposure to gas or flammable liquid.

    April 21, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brian Beckcom

    Oil rigs are dangerous and the companies tend to put production over safety. That's just a simple fact. Anyone who says otherwise hasn't spent significant time working on an offshore oil rig.

    Brian Beckcom

    April 22, 2010 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. Paul

    A quick point of clarity, BP doesn't operate the rig: it leases it from Transocean who would provide their own crew to execute the activities that BP have designed. These workers would be overseen by representatives of BP, whose job it is to ensure the company's safety standards are being upheld.

    There are thousands of these activities going on each day. That we don't hear of incidents like these more regularly is testament to the safety measures that oil and gas producers and contractors are trying to instill. Sadly though, it only takes one mistake, one slip, and we're left with the pictures we're seeing today – and feeling the pain as we hear of people unaccounted for.

    We're doing our part for the industry out in Brunei at the moment, but our thoughts and prayers today are with the families of those affected.

    April 22, 2010 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
  12. Gene

    Another rig has exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Do you still think they're safe?

    September 2, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jennie

    Yet another explosion, I'm so glad this bit of wisdom popped up in recommended reading.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mrs. Hdawg

    Tell us again how safe these rigs are, Ali... corporate stooge.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |