Explosions in the Texas Oil Industry - Legal Guide to Your Accident

Explosions: a risk for oil and gas workers in Texas

Unsafe work conditions can put oil and gas employees at risk

Working on an oil field in Texas is inherently dangerous, in part due to the high risk of explosions. The National Fire Protection Association reports EnergyWire data showing that the oil and gas industry is responsible for 10% of all workplace fatalities from fires and explosions, despite employing less than 1% of the total workforce.

If an oil industry accident caused by negligence or unsafe work conditions has changed your family’s life, it is vital to seek competent legal representation from a skilled employment injury lawyer in Texas to see if you have a case for financial compensation.

Texas is one of the leading states in oil and gas drilling, and the industry provides thousands of job opportunities for the state. Due to the possibility for injury, safety precautions must be diligently followed by employers, as well as strong training and effective supervision.

But in some cases these precautions are ignored and the results are often disastrous, or even fatal.

Dangers of working on oil fields in Texas

Individuals who work on oil fields are often exposed to a number of serious safety risks, including heavy machinery, dangerous chemicals and gases, and electrical hazards. The chemicals and dangerous working conditions also make oil and gas rigs vulnerable to explosions and fires.

Chemicals and dangerous working conditions make oil and gas rigs vulnerable to explosions. Tweet this

Causes of oil field explosions

When an oil field explosion occurs, it often makes national news, as we saw in the infamous April 2010 BP offshore oil drilling explosion and spill.

There is often a long and thorough investigation to reveal the underlying causes for oil field explosions and fires. Causes include electrical equipment short circuiting, which causes a fire that erupts into a full explosion after coming into contact with other combustible materials like oil or gas. A spark from a tool, or batteries leaking explosive gasses could also lead to explosions.

Additionally, machinery used in oil field work often involves high pressures, which when coupled with the presence of equipment and flammable fire, increases the risk of an explosion.

Fires in this industry are often very serious due to the steady supply of oil near the explosion site.

Some of the most common reasons for oil field explosions include:

  • Inadequate safety procedures
  • Improperly maintained equipment
  • Defective equipment
  • Heavy equipment failure
  • Failure to use proper safeguards
  • Errors in the drilling process
  • Lack of proper safety training
  • Oil field worker fatigue
  • Unsafe working conditions

Although stringent regulations have been developed to help minimize the possibility of serious injury or death, some companies continue to take shortcuts with safety measures to save time or money. These tactics often compromise the safety of a work environment.

With the help of a legal team, many accident victims are able to recover damages. Tweet this

It is pivotal in cases involving oil field accidents that the reasons for these fires are discovered so that future disasters can be averted. With the help of industry experts and a legal team, many accident victims are able to recover for the damages that they suffer.

Fatalities in Texas oil field explosions

According to the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), between 2003-2010, 823 people died on oil and gas extraction sites nationwide. This represented seven times the rate of fatalities for all United States industries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that between 2007-2011 199 people in Texas died as a result of oil and gas industry fatalities.

During the last several years, the oil industry has grown significantly. More than 162,000 workers had jobs in the oil industry between the years 2007 and 2012, representing a 40 percent employment increase.

Many positions are quite lucrative; however, the higher job numbers have also been a factor in the increased rate of injuries and fatalities.

Injuries resulting from Texas oil field explosions

When explosions and heavy machinery are involved, the results can be catastrophic injuries for accident victims. Injuries that oil field explosions cause include:

Damages associated with oil field explosion accidents in Texas

If you have been injured in an oil field explosion you could be entitled to workers' compensation. Damages might include:

  • Hospital bills
  • Other medical bills
  • Surgery expenses
  • Physical therapy costs
  • Plastic surgery expenses
  • Transportation expenses
  • In-home care
  • Lost or reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

Your medical expenses could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and you may be facing years of difficult recovery ahead, especially when suffering from serious burns. Often skin graft surgery, medical equipment and prosthetics are necessary in the course of treatment.

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.

Post-Accident Journal Form
Sample accident journal/diary to help you document the effect on your daily life
Download in PDF format

Workers' compensation would cover your medical costs, but not pain and suffering. You may then consider hiring an attorney to pursue your legal options under a personal injury claim.

Personal injury claims for burns while employed in Texas

If the burns you received in an oil industry explosion were due to your employer’s failure to follow OSHA regulations, you might be able to receive a significant settlement value.

If you can establish that you have been burned due to negligence, Texas law allows you to be compensated for the following.

  • Medical bills – future and past – for treating your burn injuries.
  • Any expenses related to your burn injuries that were paid out of pocket (keep good records of all expenses).
  • Wages that you have lost, as well as wages you may lose in the future due to your injuries and medical treatments/appointments.

Past and future pain and suffering, which could be substantial in a burn injury case. If you have suffered severe burns that led to obvious disfigurement, such as on the face, your award could be higher.

Note that Texas law features the concept of proportionate responsibility. This means if your responsibility for the accident is determined to be more than 50%, you cannot recover damages.

As an employee in the Texas oil and gas industry it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities. Not only to address your own potential accident case, but to help prevent a future workplace accident by knowing what problems to look for and how to report unsafe working conditions.

Know your rights

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. 

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