The event occurred on Wednesday afternoon but it was only known on Thursday. According to witnesses, the electrician was carrying out maintenance tasks on the motor of a SAI 651 equipment, which was energized and when it started, the belt caught one of his arms.
The exhausting work days, the unlimited production rates and the absence of safety measures to operate, are a breeding ground for avoidable accidents and even worker deaths. Part of “B side” of Vaca Muerta.
The anger spread rapidly among the workers who see how accidents occur without controls to avoid them. At the end of April, another oil tanker died on one of the overloaded and unmaintained routes that lead to the Vaca Muerta fields.
The general secretary of the oil union, Marcelo Rucci, was forced to call an emergency meeting of the Board of Directors to evaluate a general strike by the Neuquén, Río Negro and La Pampa Private Oil and Gas union for next week.
Social networks and local news portals were filled with testimonials from workers who recounted similar situations and a common denominator: risks increase as production rates increase.
The unbridled rhythms of Vaca Muerta increase the risks to the health of workers
Deaths and accidents at work have multiplied in the Neuquén basin since the modification of the collective labor agreement in 2017. This addendum, promoted by the leadership of the oil workers union (of which Rucci was a part), made working conditions more flexible in unconventional exploitation. Among other things, it reduced the minimum number of operators for a location to work. A new agreement in 2020 generalized the flexibility conditions for the deposits.
The worker who lost his arm performed tasks on equipment in San Antonio that is among the most modern in the country: the SAI-651 and SAI-652. They are equipment that can drill 1,426 meters in 24 hours, with enormous power. True beasts with state-of-the-art robotic tools. However, this modern technology is not used to protect workers:the working day is still 12 hours a day and with a diagram that it takes, in some cases it can lead to staying 14 or even 21 calendar days working.
Occupational accidents increase hand in hand with environmental incidents. These are not isolated events, but a rising trend. Behind the production records in the Neuquén basin there are hundreds of workers suffering accidents and losing their health.
The leadership of the oil union calls for measures to decompress the anger at the bases of the union, but without any continuity, and endorsing the flexibility and increase in production rates. It is necessary to set up health and safety committees at the hands of the workers themselves to control production processes and safety in each of the workplaces. This is how a project presented by the provincial deputy Andrés Blanco proposes after the triple social crime of the NAO refinery in Cutral Có.
Not one more life can be lost due to the thirst for profit of the businessmen and the complicity of the Government and the leadership of the union. It is urgent to annul labor flexibility agreements and reduce labor diagrams without salary reduction, a measure that would reduce health risks while creating new jobs.