Fracking’s Silver Lining
The UK fossil fuel extraction industry has always been dangerous for its workers, even if things are orders of magnitude safer today than they used to be. In 1938, 858 coal miners were killed in accidents, including 90 in explosions, 408 by roof falls, 194 in haulage and transport accidents underground, and 76 on the surface. Others died from Weil’s disease caught by contact with rat urine. Thousands developed pneumoconiosis, and paraplegia from roof falls was common.
I live under a main Aberdeen airport flight path, but it is very quiet today because of helicopter groundings after the loss of four lives on 23 August, when a Super Puma flying from the Borgsten Dolphin rig in the Dunbar oil field 420 km north of Aberdeen dropped into the sea off Fitful Head at the southern tip of Shetland.
Since 1981, 114 oil workers and air crew have died in helicopter accidents during flights to UK rigs, 31 while travelling to gas fields in the southern North Sea and Morecambe Bay. More have died in the north. A Chinook came down just south of Shetland in 1980, killing 45, and 16 were lost when a Super Puma crashed into the sea 11 miles off Peterhead in 2009. Both accidents were caused by mechanical failure.
We don’t see many protests against fracking in Aberdeen. One thing that's certain is that, for workers, it will be much safer than offshore drilling.