The oil and gas industry is a highly lucrative business that attracts hundreds of thousands of potential employees a year in Louisiana. It’s no wonder why: there is a promise of hefty salaries with very little prior experience or training necessary. But oil field injuries are sadly common.
This isn’t altogether surprising: it’s difficult and dangerous work. There are three factors that make oil rig injuries so common:
- The fast-paced nature of the industry
- Inadequate training
- A lack of safeguards
Oilfield Injury Statistics
In the oil industry, workers often feel pressure to sacrifice caution for productivity. There are no clear training regimens in operating heavy machinery or navigating high-up rig decking. 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 maintain their equipment. This leads to faulty, dangerous equipment.
The most common type of oil rig injury is 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
- Bone fractures
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Puncture wounds and lacerations
- Burns, including chemical burns
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
Oil Rig Injuries Due to Flammable Gases
Oil rig injuries like burns and acute and chronic illnesses are less common, 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 gases are often highly combustible. 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 less common ones. Now let’s discuss those three factors we mentioned earlier, and why they result in oil rig injuries.
The Fast-Paced Nature of the Oil Industry
The high demands of the oil industry push its employees to the very brink of their productivity. To meet these demands, workers may cut corners, or 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 methamphetamines are particularly common. Even though many oil companies and contractors are implementing more stringent drug testing, drug abuse continues to contribute to oil rig injuries.
Cutting corners is common on an oil rig. 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 needed, oil rig work actually requires a significant amount of training.
Oil field workers are responsible for plenty of heavy machinery. If management does not maintain this equipment, or if the operator does not have proper training, this becomes dangerous. Many oil rig injuries result from malfunctioning or broken equipment.
Oil Rig Injuries and OSHA
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 requires oil 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.
A Lack of Safeguards
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 case of a fall, or a heavy piece of falling equipment, or an explosion, 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 inspection 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.
Worker’s Compensation for Oil Field Injuries
Oil field injuries are shockingly common, and many workers are unable to work. If you sustain an injury in an oil field accident, you may very well have a worker’s 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. Even car accidents during the course of your oil field duties can result in a worker’s compensation claim.
But you may worry about losing your job due to taking worker’s compensation, or maybe someone has encouraged you not to take worker’s compensation. But the point of worker’s compensation is to provide you with a living while you recover from your injury.
Contact Gordon & Gordon
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 knowledgeable worker’s compensation attorneys serving the Shreveport, Bossier, and Mansfield, Louisiana 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.