2nd deadliest US industry kills another Filipino

Paterno Esmaquel II
Peter Jorge Voces belonged to a deadly industry that killed 3 Filipinos before him

DEADLY BLAST. Commercial vessels spray water to extinguish a platform fire on board the West Delta 32 oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off Grand Isle, Louisiana on November 16, 2012. File photo from AFP/Handout/US Coast Guard

MANILA, Philippines – It was 7:30 pm on Sunday, October 27, another evening at work for 38-year-old Peter Jorge Voces, a Filipino welder in the second deadliest industry in the United States.

Workers like him – who belong to the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry – face a 15.6% risk of dying on the job.

This fatal work injury rate was the second highest in 2012, according to preliminary data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It was almost 5 times higher than the average.

In 2012 alone, the industry killed 177 people – including 3 Filipinos, who died after an explosion on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. (READ: 3rd Filipino fatality in oil rig accident identified.)

Voces, who also worked in the Gulf of Mexico, had no idea he was next. (READ: Missing Pinoy oil rig worker found dead.)

Physically taxing

Voces belonged to a derrick barge crew.

His work? To dismantle a platform of the Houston-based Talos Energy, an oil exploration company, according to a Talos official quoted by the Philippine Embassy to the United States.

His job was physically taxing.

Transocean, a drilling services provider, says derrick barge welders “carry out welding, cutting, burning, and associated activities as directed on board the vessel.”

A similar company, Tetra Offshore Services, includes the following requirements for welders: 

  • “Must be able to work 24-hour callout schedule and reliably report to work on time;

  • “Work long, strenuous hours, live and work offshore with limited medical care access, exposure to wet and/or humid conditions and temperature extremes, moving or mechanical parts, and loud noise;

  • “Wear required safety equipment, ride in a helicopter, crew boat, sling or basket, and swing on a rope to board offshore vessels or structures; and

  • “Be able to lift, move, or carry up to 25 to 50 lbs and meet other physical job requirements.”

For this, welders get around US$38,100 (P1.64 million) a year, according to US labor data as of May 2012.

This, compared to the highest paid US employees who get around $232,000 (P9.98 million) a year and the lowest paid ones who get around $18,600 (P799,800).

100 feet underwater

Voces lost everything on Sunday evening.

That night, an empty storage tank knocked him off the platform. He fell to his death – and sank 100 feet underwater.

This is based on the account of Talos representative David Blackmon, as quoted by the Philippine Embassy in the United States.

Immediately, the embassy said, a team searched for Voces. Two cutters, two helicopters, two fixed-wing aircraft, and 6 civilian offshore supply vessels joined the operation.

On Monday, October 28, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr said, “We hope and pray that they will find him tomorrow.”

On Tuesday, October 29, at around 10:30 am, divers from the US Coast Guard finally found Voces – dead.

The Coast Guard told Consul Romulo Israel Jr that divers “found Voces’ body pinned in the wreckage in waters just below the platform.”

‘With deep sadness’

“It is with deep sadness that we learn about the loss of our kababayan (countryman),” Cuisia said.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a separate statement, said it “would like to convey our deepest sympathies” to Voces’ family and friends.

“The department, through our consulate general in Chicago, will facilitate the repatriation of Mr Voces’ remains and will also make the necessary representations with his employer to secure his benefits,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a text message.

The late Voces was one of the 329,710 people who worked as welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers in the US in 2012, based on statistics.

He was also one of the 1.8 million Filipino workers, as of 2012, who sought a better life overseas. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.