The oil and gas industry is a highly lucrative business that attracts hundreds of thousands of potential employees every year in Louisiana. It’s no wonder why: there is a promise of hefty salaries with very little prior experience or training necessary. Unfortunately, oil field accidents and injuries are sadly common.
This isn’t altogether surprising, as it’s difficult and dangerous work. There are three factors that make oil field accidents and injuries so common:
- The fast-paced nature of the industry
- Inadequate training
- A lack of safeguards
In this post, the Shreveport worker’s compensation attorneys at Gordon & Gordon will discuss common oil field injuries, as well as why they happen and how we can prevent them.
Oilfield Injury Statistics
In the oil industry, workers often feel pressured to sacrifice caution for productivity. There are no clear training regimens for operating heavy machinery or navigating high-up rig decks. Workers also have to handle hazardous materials and often do not receive very much training for it.
It is also not uncommon for workers to receive very little training on how to properly clean and maintain their equipment. This often leads to faulty, dangerous equipment management and potentially serious accidents.
The most common types of oil rig accidents are when a falling object strikes an employee, often from collapsing decking or work rigs. The next most common accident is workers getting caught in malfunctioning equipment.
Specific injuries that can occur in these common oil and gas accidents are:
- Finger or fingertip amputation
- Accidental amputation of an extremity
- Bone fractures
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Puncture wounds and lacerations
- Burn injuries, including chemical burns
- Spine injuries
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
Oil Rig Injuries Due to Flammable Gasses
Oil rig injuries like burns and acute and chronic illnesses are less common oil rig injuries, but they do happen. This is due to the likelihood that oilfield workers will need to handle a variety of hazardous materials, such as hydrogen sulfide gas. These gasses are often highly combustible, and fires are common.
Oilfield workers are subject to materials like airborne silica and diesel particulate matter. These materials are harmful to the skin, eyes, and lungs. If oilfield workers neglect the proper safety equipment when working with these chemicals, acute illnesses and burns can result.
These are the most common oil field injuries, as well as some of the less common ones.
Common Causes of Oil Rig Accidents
The high demands of the oil industry push its employees to the very brink of their productivity. To meet these demands, workers and employers alike may cut corners or try to increase productivity in other ways.
Worker drug use is a tragic side effect of the oil and gas industry culture. This is due to the high demands of the job as well as the high wages. The use of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine is particularly common. Even though many oil and gas companies and contractors are implementing more stringent drug testing, drug abuse continues to contribute to oil rig injuries.
Cutting corners is common on oil rigs. To complete tasks on time, workers may ignore safety procedures or proper safety equipment. When you combine that tendency with the possibility of drug abuse, you get a recipe for disaster. (See: Can You Still Receive Workers’ Comp if You Fail a Drug Test?)
These types of oil rig injuries are difficult to prevent simply due to the nature of the industry. Stricter management with more focus on maintaining safety procedures is the best recommendation.
Even though the oil industry draws many employees due to the high wages combined with the lack of training and experience needed, oil rig workers actually require a significant amount of training.
Oil rig workers are responsible for handling plenty of heavy machinery and equipment. If management does not properly maintain this equipment, or if the operator does not have proper training, this can become dangerous very quickly. As such, an oil rig accident may likely result from malfunctioning or broken equipment.
A Lack of Safeguards
Thorough training is not the only safety measure available to oilfield workers. Safety equipment is also important, and though some safety equipment is present, it isn’t always adequate.
For example, oil rig workers wear hard hats. But in the case of a slip and fall, a heavy piece of falling equipment, or explosions and fires, hard hats aren’t adequate. Because of this, traumatic brain injuries are common.
To counteract these types of injuries, OSHA recommends the active monitoring of chemicals and equipment. OSHA also recommends proper head, eye, face, and respiratory protection.
OSHA also recommends that oil rigs implement regular inspections of equipment. They should also have comprehensive maintenance plans. This includes utilizing safety control devices like tripwires, two-handed controls, and barriers such as gates and protective shields.
Oil Rig OSHA Requirements
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) collects information on oil rig injuries from many major oil and gas companies in the United States. Since 2015, OSHA has required oil rigs and gas companies to report all severe injuries.
Before 2015, OSHA only required companies to report fatalities or catastrophic accidents that hospitalized more than 3 employees. OSHA uses this data to manage and evaluate oil rig injuries and implement better safety procedures.
But OSHA’s data is incomplete, as 21 states are exempt from reporting. This includes many states with huge oil and gas industries. Despite this incomplete data, OSHA makes it clear that the oil and gas industry’s high injury rate is due to the many safety hazards of the job and the lack of training against them.
Workers’ Compensation for Oil Field Injuries
Oil field injuries are shockingly common, and leave many employees unable to work. If you sustain an injury in an oil field accident, you may very well have a workers’ compensation claim.
The circumstances we have discussed and the injuries we mentioned are all circumstances and injuries that can result in worker’s compensation claims, but there are several other injuries and causes of injuries that may result in such a claim. For example, getting into a car accident while working during the course of your oil field duties can also result in a valid workers’ compensation claim.
You may worry about losing your job due to taking worker’s compensation, or maybe someone has encouraged you not to seek worker’s compensation. The point of worker’s compensation is to provide you with a living while you recover from your injury, and you cannot legally be penalized for enacting your rights to receive it.
Experienced Oil Rig Injury Lawyers in Northwest Louisiana
If you or someone you love sustains an injury in the course of their oilfield duties, they may need the services of an oilfield injury attorney.
Gordon & Gordon are not only experienced Louisiana personal injury lawyers, but they also double as knowledgeable worker’s compensation attorneys serving the Shreveport, Bossier, and Mansfield areas. We have extensive knowledge of the oil and gas industry. We are also very aware of the circumstances surrounding oil field injuries.
You can contact us by calling 318-716-HELP. Phone lines are available 24/7. You can also send us a message with a description of your case to begin your consultation process.