Learn about accidents, injuries, and lawsuits involving the offshore oil and gas industry
Each year, thousands of seamen, dockworkers, commercial fisherman, and oil rig employees are seriously injured or even fatally wounded off the coast of Texas.
These injuries, which generally occur on vessels (oil platforms, barges, etc.) in the open sea, are broadly referred to as "offshore accidents."
Offshore accidents differ from most other types of accidents and often implicate little-known state and federal laws.
If you live in Texas, chances are you've read about an offshore accident involving an oil rig in the newspaper or even experienced one personally or through a loved one.
With a focus on offshore accidents involving oil rigs, let's take a closer look.
Offshore accident statistics
When you think about offshore accidents, the first accident that probably comes to mind is the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and which was later featured in a film starring Mark Wahlberg.
Unfortunately, accidents like the Deepwater Horizon explosion are not as uncommon as you might think.
Employees working for offshore oil drilling and gas exploration companies are 7 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average American worker. The average fatality rate for US workers is 3.7 deaths for every 100,000 employees per year, while the fatality rate average for offshore crew members is 25 per 100,000 workers.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found there were 128 fatalities in activities related to offshore oil and gas operations from 2003-2010.
Causes of offshore accident injuries
Offshore oil and gas jobs are inherently dangerous. What's more, one report found that oil and gas companies aren't doing a sufficient job keeping their employees safe and are routinely being cited for workplace safety violations.
Common causes of offshore accidents include:
- Transportation. The majority of fatal offshore oil and gas operation accidents are transportation-related. This can include anything from transport boats capsizing in choppy water to transport helicopters being struck by lightning.
- Chemical exposure. Oil and gas workers often face prolonged exposure to dangerous chemicals and other substances. Such life-altering conditions as leukemia, cancer, paralysis, and chemical burns have been associated with continued exposure to dangerous chemicals on oil rig sites.
- Hazardous machines. Oil and gas workers routinely operate dangerous equipment, including traveling derricks, heavy lifts, spinning chains, hoists, and drills. The machines could be utilized in unguarded areas, or safety measures might be skipped, increasing the potential risk for injury.
- Falls. Falls are 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 equipment.
- Explosions and fires. 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. 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.
|Deaths Among American Offshore Oil and Gas Workers
|Event||Number of Fatalities||Percentage|
Water vehicle events
|Contact with objects and equipment||21||16.4%|
|Fires and explosions||17||13.3%|
|Exposure to harmful substances||16||12.5%|
|Other event types||9||7%|
Types of offshore injuries
Offshore accident injuries—particularly those involving the oil and gas industry—are generally more severe than injuries resulting from other types of accidents. This is due, in part, to the fact that the accidents take place in the ocean where the possibility of drowning exists and help may be miles away.
Examples of offshore accident injuries include:
Laws that impact offshore workers
Due to the nature of offshore accidents, there are a number of state and federal laws that might apply to your case. For this reason, it's important—even more so than in most other personal injury cases—to hire an experienced Texas accident and injury attorney.
In most cases (no matter what law applies), you'll have to show that someone else's negligence caused your accident in order to recover damages. The exception is federal and state workers' compensation statutes, under which it's not necessary to prove that anyone was at fault for your injury.
Here's a quick look at some of the laws that might apply to your case:
- The Texas Water Safety Act addresses the duties of boat operators.
- The Texas Workers' Compensation Act provides benefits to employees of covered entities injured while at work regardless of fault. The Texas Workers' Compensation Act also provides compensation to certain family members of individuals killed while working regardless of fault.
- Texas wrongful death laws provide compensation to certain surviving family members.
- The Jones Act is a federal act that regulates maritime activities and provides medical compensation to the surviving spouse and/or children of a qualified deceased offshore worker.
- The Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act is a federal law that provides for the payment of compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services to employees disabled from on-the-job injuries that occur on the navigable waters of the US.
- The Death on the High Seas Act applies to workers who died more than 3 nautical miles outside of territorial waters and offers family members financial relief.
- The Oil and Pollution Act governs the process of compensation for injuries sustained by a spill or other refinery or rig catastrophes.
- The applicable law (and, believe it or not, there are others) depends on the nature and location of the accident. An experienced and knowledgeable offshore worker wrongful death attorney can help guide you through these legal options and determine which ones are best to pursue in your case.
Resources for offshore workers
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 offshore incidents.
Companies within the oil and gas industry can also use the Job Safety Analysis Process to identify hazards and find solutions.
You may also want to read:
- Oil Industry Accidents and Laws - an Overview
- Explosions in the Texas oil industry
- Respiratory problems (H2S exposure)
- Injuries from exposure to chemicals
- Plant/refinery accidents
- Oil field accidents