There are many dangerous jobs out there, but the oil & gas extraction industry consistently tops the list of the most fatal accidents. Sure the money is good, but according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), oil field accidents and offshore injuries kill employees seven times more often than all other industries. Knowing this risk, oil & gas companies are responsible for creating job site safety protocol and safety training to prevent falls, burns, and other work accidents.
Thousands of workers are seriously hurt each year and many are killed.
Baron & Budd, P.C. is currently taking offshore injury and oil field accident cases. If you were injured while working offshore or at a derrick or rig on-shore, call 866-974-0818 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation with an offshore injury lawyer for compensation.
Workers in the oil and gas industry hold some of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that the industry as a whole were seven times more likely to die at work than people working in other U.S. industries between 2003 and 2013. The study includes three subsets of oil & gas company employers in the study: oil & gas lease operators, well drillers including drilling contractors, and well support and service operators for upstream production completion.
In addition, the number of reported injuries is staggering; in 2011 alone, workers in the oil and gas extraction industry suffered 1,400 injuries while those in supportive industrial roles (including well drilling) experienced an additional 8,500 incidents.
Types of Oil Field & Offshore Accidents
Some of the most common accidents that injure oilfield workers are transportation accidents, contact or impact with machinery or objects, exposure to dangerous, toxic or harmful substances, crane accident injuries, electrocution, refinery explosions, burns, and falls. The highest number of oil & gas worker injuries occur in the transportation sector of the industry.
Although many people automatically assume that truck accidents carrying fuel, gas, or well cleanout materials are to blame, many transportation injuries and deaths occur during helicopter crashes, plane crashes, and onboard exploration and drilling boats.
Offshore injury claims can quickly become complicated without a maritime attorney who is familiar with the Jones Act and Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) for injury claims at sea.
The Jones Act’s Role in Oilfield Injury & Wrongful Death Claims
The Jones Act of 1920, aka Merchant Marine Act, was enacted to govern and control maritime commerce but also allows seamen injured or killed while working offshore to file claims against their employers for negligence. The Jones Act provides protection for “seamen” who were injured due to the negligence of an employer or co-worker and/or when the vessel on which they were injured is deemed “unseaworthy”. Because of the statute of limitations outlined in the Jones Act, employees have up to three years following an injury to file a Jones Act claim.
Offshore workers and seamen are not eligible to file workers compensation claims for injuries offshore, but the Jones Act enables them to file for compensation. The Jones Act allows people injured while working offshore to receive more compensation than if they were covered by traditional workers compensation.
In addition, The Jones Act allows surviving family members and spouses of roughnecks, crane operators, commercial divers, and other offshore workers that died on the job to file wrongful death claims. Families grieving the loss of a loved one who died as a result of negligence or an unseaworthy vessel while working on international waters have the opportunity to receive financial compensation through the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), provided litigation at started within three years of the individual’s death.
Title 46 § 20104, Personal injury to or death of seaman, states that
“A seaman injured in the course of employment or, if the seaman dies from the injury, the personal representative of the seaman may elect to bring a civil action at law, with the right of trial by jury, against the employer. “
Compensation for Offshore Injuries Under the Jones Act
The Jones Act allows workers, contractors, and employees and any other laborers with work injuries to receive compensation for both medical bills and lost wages. Injured workers often face high medical expenses and the possibility of an extended recovery period, making them and their families vulnerable to financial struggle.
“Maintenance and Cure” rights may also be provided by the Jones Act, covering all medical and supporting expenses until a seaman has reached a point of maximum cure, regardless of whether the injury or illness was a result of the negligence of another person.
However, the Jones Act only allows injured or deceased workers to file a claim if they can be deemed not just a seamen, but a “seamen in navigation”, or working on a vessel capable of moving on its own whether by power or sail.
Other stipulations for coverage under the Jones Act include the worker’s contribution to the work the vessel is to perform, the injury must have occurred in navigable waters, and the injured must spend at least 30% of their working hours onboard the vessel.
Families who have lost a loved one working under contract or as an employee of an oil and gas company deserve compensation for their loss, but when the Jones Act cannot protect an injured worker’s rights the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) comes into play.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
If a worker doesn’t qualify for coverage under the Jones Act, many times they can file a claim under the LHWCA. Although coverage is not as comprehensive, workers can still file a lawsuit for offshore injury and death. Damages covered by the LHWCA include 66% of lost wages, medical expenses and prescriptions, mental anguish and pain and suffering. Unlike Jones Act benefits, LHWCA compensation can vary depending on the severity of the injury and level of negligence.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) covers longshoremen and most individuals injured while working in shipyards, shipping terminals, harbors and on docks. However, negligence must be proven for a claim to be made. Families may also file a wrongful death claim under LHWCA.
A notice of the injury must be filed within 30 days of the incident in order to apply for coverage (except when related physical challenges do not appear until a later point in time).
Through The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, benefits of the LHWCA extend to workers employed and injured on offshore oil platforms that are permanently affixed to the ocean floor, as such platforms are considered to be “artificial islands” of their closest state.
Hazardous Oilfield Job Sites
Hazards exist within each subsector of the oil and gas industry. In addition to the constant risk of fire and explosion present at any oil or gas jobsite, refinery, extraction, or production facility, types of injuries can also be attributed specifically to jobsites offshore or on land.
Most Common Job Sites for Oilfield Accidents
Offshore Oil Platforms. On any type of offshore oil platform, falls from high locations can result in brain or spinal damage. Crush injury and limb loss can occur if a large object breaks free and strikes a worker, or if a crane is not operated safely. Underwater welders are subject to diving accidents and workers may experience respiratory ailments due to exposure to a variety of toxic chemicals and carcinogens.
Jackup Drill Rigs. While many of the hazards present on jackup drill rigs are similar to those on offshore oil platforms, these moveable rigs are vulnerable to the additional risk of capsizing while being towed from one location to another. Additionally, since jackup drill rigs often perform well drilling services, allowing another oil platform to move in and extract natural resources, jackup rig workers are subject to a proportionally higher risk of death. Employees, contractors, and laborers of drilling companies suffer the largest number of fatalities within the industry according to the CDC. We represent workers that wish to pursue jackup drill rig injury lawsuits across the country.
Drill Rig Collapse. Jackup rigs are not the only types of drilling rigs used in the oil and gas extraction industry. Some fixed oil platforms contain their own drilling rig and others are contained within floating rigs or ships. An entire drill rig can collapse, leading to a catastrophic loss of life. Should a cable used in the drilling process break free, many workers may be seriously injured or killed. Partial rig collapses caused by manufacturing defects or design flaw can also seriously injure or kill drill rig workers.
Crane Accident Injuries. Most on and offshore oilfield drilling sites utilize one or more cranes for the purpose of maneuvering large, heavy objects. While crane operators are largely responsible for the safe use of these powerful pieces of machinery, improperly rigged loads can cause a crane to tip over or collapse. Electrocution injury is also a risk if the crane accidentally contacts a power line or another source of electricity.
Oil Rig Explosions. Explosions are an ever-present risk on all offshore oil rigs and account for 13% of all offshore fatalities. As flammable natural gas or oil under high pressure is forced through a series of valves and pipes, this pressurized material seeks any weak spot where a leak can begin. Even static electricity can serve as an ignition source under such extreme conditions, leading to an explosion or a series of explosions. Some rigs are designed with worker accommodations, separating them from industrial operations but connected with gangway bridges. Others utilize a single platform for both production and housing, increasing the risk of injury to off duty workers.
Fracking Accidents. Hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking”, may be the most dangerous sub-sector for oil and gas workers. Transportation accidents are the number one cause of fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry, and fracking relies heavily on the movement of supplies both to and from extraction sites. Crude oil is often shipped to refineries via tanker trucks, further increasing the risk of transportation related accidents. Well instability increases danger, causing a number of well intervention accidents. Employees working on a fracking site are also exposed to a high concentration of silica dust that can lead to silicosis.
Pipeline Explosion Accidents. With millions of miles of pipeline carrying natural gas and other hazardous materials running throughout the nation, accidents related to pipeline leaks and explosions are fairly common. A large portion of our country’s pipelines were manufactured from outdated materials and are badly in need of repair or replacement, further increasing the risk to pipeline workers and the public alike. Pipelines must be regularly inspected, maintained, and marked to ensure safety; any violation of these requirements may be considered an act of negligence and grounds for liability should an accident or injury occur as a result.
Oil Refinery Explosions & Plant Accidents. Oil refinery injury and death statistics are highly misleading because contractors make up a large percentage of the workforce at most refineries today. These individuals are typically assigned the most dangerous tasks and are not classified as employees of the refinery itself; as a result, injuries or fatalities involving contractors are not recorded as refinery related. Contractors and their families are still eligible for refinery injury compensation. Oil refinery injuries are typically serious, including severe burns, broken bones, loss of limb, respiratory distress, and death.
What are Common Causes for Negligence Claims in Oilfield Accidents?
While there is typically more than one factor involved in oil & gas work site, the following cause many accidents:
- Long working hours which lead to fatigue and poor decisions;
- Lack of adequate training and/or supervision of employees;
- Poorly maintained equipment or outdated materials;
- A manufacturing defect or flawed product design;
- Lack of safety equipment or safety training
Many states have comparative fault laws which allow payment for damages to be shared proportionally based on the amount of blame each individual or company is responsible for. While manufacturers may be held liable for damages under Chapter 82 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code (or similar code for the state in which the facility is located), employer negligence is handled under a variety of laws depending on whether the incident occurred on or offshore.
Why are Oilfield Workers Injured So Often?
Life working offshore or on a land rig is difficult because oilfield workers are expected to work long hours in remote areas and extreme weather climates. Unfortunately, oilfield workers are frequently exposed to unsafe working conditions, many of which are avoidable.
As the statistics prove, injuries and fatalities are unfortunately all too common. Many different factors lead to accidents that can change lives forever, such as negligence of employers and third-party contractors.
List of Common Oilfield Worker Accidents
- Truck accidents
- Helicopter crashes
- Crane Failure
- Rig, Well, and Platform Fires
- Diving Accidents
- Plane Crashes
- Equipment collapses
- Boat & Shipwrecks
- Falls from catwalks
- Heavy machinery malfunctions
- Exposure to poisonous gas and toxic substances, including hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S gas)
- Exposure to carcinogens
These oilfield accidents lead to devastating injuries such as broken bones, head injuries, limb amputation, spinal cord injuries, and unfortunately, sometimes death.
Oilfield workers typically put in long hours without getting the proper rest they need. Often times they are under so much pressure to “get the job done” that safety protocols are not given priority over profits. Sometimes, companies cut corners when hiring workers, putting untrained, inexperienced people in harm’s way.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 2003-2011, an average of 104 workers in the oil and gas industry died each year due to accidents and thousands more were injured. As newer and more inexperienced workers enter the profession, these numbers will likely rise substantially. Not only do those workers face dangers, but so do the workers around them.
Some of the most dangerous positions in oilfields are labor-intensive jobs that are performed in conditions that are often harsh. Combine that with the constant demands placed on workers, and you can easily see why accidents occur with such regularity.
Oilfield Jobs with Most Injury Lawsuits
- Floorhands – These workers perform several functions on drilling rigs, including helping setting up and taking down the drilling rig, helping move and stack or connect sections of pipe, carrying tools and parts, and performing just about any other task demanded of him by the driller or other crew members on the drilling rig.
- Motorhands – The workers are usually responsible for providing labor to ensure drilling rig equipment, especially diesel and electrical powered equipment, are functioning properly. Like floorhands, motorhands may find themselves doing any work that is demanded of them by the driller or derrickhand.
- Derrickhands – These workers typically responsible for stacking or guiding pipe in the derrick of the drilling rig in addition to frequently being responsible for the conditioning of the drilling fluids and monitoring and maintenance of drilling rig machinery.
- Drillers – The driller generally supervises the derrickhands, motorhands, and floorhands on a drilling rig. The driller operates the controls which make the drilling rig perform its assigned task relative to a given wellsite.
- Tool Pushers or Rig Managers – Tool pushers, also known as rig managers, typically supervise a given drilling rig and its crew. However, as they are involved in the drilling operations, and often deliver tools and equipment to a given wellsite, they are certainly not out of danger.
- Welders – Pipe and structural welding is a particularly demanding job from a physical standpoint, often exposing workers to toxic fumes, equipment collapse risks, and the danger of a devastating explosions or fires.
- Mechanics – Mechanics face many dangers ranging from equipment collapses to fires and explosions. In fact, many mechanics involved in cleaning oilfield tank trailers have been known to suffer severe injury, and even death, when using cutting torches or grinders to repair or maintain that equipment.
- H2S Advisors or Technicians – These workers are tasked with trying to detect and mitigate the hazards of H2S, or poison gas. While H2S is not present at every oilfield site, it is common is certain areas, such as the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas. Exposure to H2S gas can result in immediate death to H2S Advisors and Technicians, in addition to all other oilfield workers exposed to that gas resulting in a hazard to all oilfield workers.
- Frack Site Workers – Frack site workers include numerous job titles including operators, coordinators, and loaders. They work alongside other workers in drilling rig or completion rig operations, and are subject to the same hazards of those workers in addition to the hazards of working with their own employer’s equipment, which typically operates under high pressures with all types of chemicals.
- Roustabouts – Roustabouts perform about every type of job imaginable in the oilfield industry, from setting up and repairing pump jacks and tank batteries, welding, laying flow lines, and building fences. Like other oilfield workers, their hours are long, and roustabouts typically work in all types of extreme weather climates. This can be very dangerous work.
How Baron & Budd Can Help
An experienced oilfield injury attorney with Baron & Budd may be able to work on your behalf and help you obtain compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills and other damages. You may, for example, be able to file an oilfield worker injury lawsuit against a contractor whose employees or equipment caused the injury, the manufacturer of a part that malfunctioned and led to an accident, or against an employer for failing to provide a safe working environment. If you lost a loved one due to an oilfield accident, you might be able to take legal action as well.
Please contact Baron & Budd as soon as you can to learn more about your potential legal options. Call 866-974-0818 or complete our contact form to schedule a confidential consultation. We have represented many oilfield workers in cases involving serious personal injury and death, failure to pay proper overtime compensation and laying off workers without notice, and we look forward to the opportunity to represent workers who have been injured due to the negligence of others.
Contact an Offshore Injury Attorney Today
Call today to schedule a free consultation with our legal team for work injuries offshore, at a drilling rig, platform, or other oil & gas job site. Our oilfield accident attorneys are well versed in maritime law and negligence claims; they can help you hold the party responsible for your suffering accountable. Call now to see if you are eligible to file a lawsuit for offshore injury compensation.