On One-Year Anniversary of Fatal Oil Site Accident in Forrest County, Mississippi, CSB Launches Educational Outreach Initiative

October 28, 2010

Board Again Calls for Increased Safeguards at Oil and Gas Sites

Washington, DC, October 28, 2010 - The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) today announced that educational materials concerning oil site hazards that threaten the lives of teenagers have been distributed to more than 150 Mississippi school superintendents. The CSB is calling on schools across the state to incorporate the video and lessons into school curricula.
            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 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.
            “No Place to Hang Out,” was released at a news conference on April 13, 2010, in Hattiesburg, MS. The video tells the story of the tragic deaths of 18-year-old Wade White and 16-year-old Devon Byrd. The two boys were killed on October 31, 2009, when an oil tank located in a clearing in the woods near one of the boys’ homes in Carnes, MS, exploded.
CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso stated, "As the one-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. 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 said, “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 the 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.  The CSB found 26 similar accidents at such sites resulting in 44 fatalities among teenagers and young adults between 1983 and 2010. The Board found that since 2003 alone, 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 the 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.
Chairperson Moure-Eraso added, “If this educational campaign can help save the life of one teenager, it will be worth the effort.”
The CSB has called for improved safeguards at oil and gas sites across the country. Just one day after the April 13, 2010, CSB news conference in Hattiesburg, CSB investigators learned of a similar accident hundreds of miles away at a production site in Weleetka, Oklahoma. CSB investigators examined similarities with the accident that occurred in Carnes, MS. The team determined the accident in Oklahoma occurred when a group of teens and young adults gathered at an isolated unsecured, unfenced and unmanned oil and gas site. The youth who died in the blast possessed a cigarette lighter that likely ignited vapor from the tank, the CSB determined.  Just 12 days later, another explosion occurred at an oil and gas production site in New London, Texas. Two 24-year-olds – a man and a woman – were gathering at yet another isolated unattended site when an explosion killed the woman and seriously injured the man.
In August CSB Chairman 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 of 2010 the Board of Supervisors of Forrest County, Mississippi, passed an ordinance requiring appropriate critical security measures, including fencing and signage, be placed around hazardous oil sites.  The CSB strongly applauded this action.
The 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 has determined. The final report of the CSB’s task force will address this lack of regulation.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.
For more information, contact Acting Director of Public Affairs Hillary Cohen 202-261-3601, cell 202-446-8094.
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