As activity and employment in the oil and gas industry have risen, so have injuries and fatalities.
Causes of fatalities
The most common reason for fatalities in this industry is due to vehicle accidents (transportation events – mostly in aircrafts) which accounts for 50.8% of deaths of people in the oil and gas industry.
The CDC reports that death from exposure to harmful substances/environments accounts for 12.5% of fatal injuries among workers involved in offshore oil and gas operations (2003-2010 data).
One of the most serious issues that oil and gas extraction workers face is the possibility of injury and illness due to chemical exposure.
Although employers are legally required to take preventative steps to shield employees from exposure to dangerous chemicals, some simply fail to take these precautions.
When finding a new oil source, companies may fail to provide appropriate training after quickly rushing to put a team together to begin a drilling project.
Additionally, employers sometimes neglect to provide proper safety equipment that could have prevented or minimized exposure. When employers are negligent, workers are exposed to chemicals and are at greater risk of sustaining injuries or developing illnesses.
When employers are negligent, workers are at greater risk of sustaining injuries or developing illnesses.
Types of chemical exposures
Prolonged exposure to volatile chemicals used in the oil and gas industry can cause serious health consequences for employees. Workers inhale chemicals or absorb them through their skin.
They may even take home the dangerous chemicals on their clothing and expose their families to the same risks.
Injuries and illnesses
The injuries and illnesses that result from chemical exposure vary in severity and effect, depending on the type and length of exposure.
Possible injuries and illnesses include:
Long-term respiratory problems - Ultrafine particulates may be breathed in and spread throughout the body.
Brain damage - Prolonged exposure to certain chemicals has been linked to neurological damage.
Burns - When dangerous chemicals make contact with the skin, workers can suffer from serious burns.
Cancer and leukemia - Pipeline operators and crude oil shippers are at the highest rate of risk.
Birth defects - Pregnant mothers who are exposed to dangerous chemicals on oil rigs may have a child born with birth defects.
Headaches, nausea, dizziness and eye and skin irritation – Even with only limited exposure, many workers report more minor problems such as headaches and irritation.
Employers can minimize workers' exposure to toxic chemicals by providing protective gear.
Employers can take steps to minimize workers' exposure to toxic chemicals. One proven method is to provide proper protective treatment that prevents the worker from being exposed through their skin. This includes gloves, helmets and protective clothing.
Educating workers on potential risks and giving them proper training on how to handle chemicals may also help curtail the significant number of injuries in this industry.
Legal assistance and resources
If you do face injuries as a result of chemical exposure in the oil and gas industry, your medical expenses could cost thousands of dollars and you may be facing years of difficult recovery ahead.
Enjuris tip: Enjuris offers a post-accident pain journal that can help you document your injuries and treatment plan, which can be helpful in a workers' compensation or jury trial case.
The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. OSHA also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law. For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov for more information on workers' rights.
If you have questions or concerns about your work site, find your regional or area OSHA office through the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office.