Texas is one of the leading states in oil and gas drilling, and the industry provides thousands of job opportunities for the state. Unfortunately, those opportunities can become disasters when workers suffer from life-altering injuries on an offshore drilling site.
Accidents can even result in fatalities, as we saw in the infamous April 2010 BP offshore oil drilling spill.
Whether one act or another applies is dependent upon the rig worker's situation. Is the rig worker more than 3 miles, or 12 miles offshore? Is the worker on a U.S. made vessel? Could the rig worker be considered a "seaman" at the time of his or her injury?
The Jones Act provides protection for workers who spend the majority of their time at sea. Under the Jones Act, injured workers are entitled to maintenance and cure. Maintenance is considered the money that is required to supply room and board to the worker on the same basis as that was generally provided on board the vessel.
The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 governs the process of compensation for injuries sustained by a spill or other refinery or rig catastrophe. Furthermore, those injured during the clean-up process after the catastrophic event may also seek workers' compensation awards as a result of the clean-up process.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and found 128 fatalities in activities related to offshore oil and gas operations occurred from 2003-2010.
Transportation events were the leading cause of deaths in offshore drilling at 51%, and most of those involved aircrafts. Nearly 24% of the fatalities occurred among workers whose occupations were classified as "transportation and material moving."
For the oil and gas industry as a whole, between 2003-2010, 823 people died on oil and gas extraction sites, according to the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). This represented seven times the rate of fatalities for all U.S. 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.
As more rigs are being operated, a greater number of fatalities are occurring.
While many companies take steps to minimize the possibility of a worker suffering a serious injury, there are many fatalities and injuries that are linked to the negligent actions or error on the part of employers.
Careless and reckless actions by employers and coworkers, misuse of equipment, failing to provide proper training and delaying the repair of defective equipment are just a few of the common reasons why injuries on the job occur.
FuelFix, a news source on the energy industry, reports that four of every five major offshore accidents are caused by human error, highlighting the need to make safety training and risk assessments an active part of maintaining offshore oil rigs.
Another FuelFix article notes that some oil companies are trying to ensure that workers get enough sleep by providing higher quality mattresses. Better rested employees are less likely to make errors that can cause injury, according to the article.
Oil and gas workers often face prolonged exposure to dangerous chemicals and other substances through breathing, ingestion or physical contact. Such life-altering conditions as leukemia, cancer, paralysis and chemical burns have been associated with continued exposure to dangerous chemicals on oil rig sites.
Using machines to drill for oil and gas can be a dangerous venture. Workers might be required to operate such equipment as a traveling derrick, heavy lifts, spinning chain, hoists and drills. The machines could be utilized in unguarded areas, or safety measures might be skipped, increasing the potential risk factors for injury.
Falls are one of the most common types of workplace injuries. BLS reports that 274,120 non-fatal cases involving falls occurred in 2014. During the same year, 800 deaths were attributed to this reason.
Falls are more common in the oil and gas industries because employees work on elevated platforms.
Some of the leading causes of such falls include harness failure or improper rigging methods, slipping over chemicals or tools, and being struck by tools and equipment.
Federal labor statistics have found that the oil and gas industry accounts for more deaths caused by explosions and fires than in any other private industry. This is likely due to the highly combustible chemicals and gas that are present on oil and gas rigs.
Confined spaces also create a dangerous situation for many gas and oil line workers, including offshore workers. Working in confined spaces subjects workers to the risks of flammable vapors, chemical hazards and lack of oxygen.
Oil and gas rig injuries are likely to be more severe than in other industries and often take much longer to recover from. Types of injuries include:
OSHA offers injury prevention resources, such as the Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing eTool, which identifies common hazards and possible solutions to reduce dangerous incidents.
Companies within the oil and gas industry can also use the Job Safety Analysis Process to identify hazards and find solutions.
If you have been injured in a workplace accident in the Texas oil industry, you do have options available to get financial support. You may be eligible for workers' compensation, which 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.