Oil field and plant and refinery accidents in the Texas oil industry account for many serious injuries and deaths every year. In fact, drilling for petroleum is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, with risks at practically every stage of the process.
Texas is one of the leading states in oil and gas drilling, and the industry provides thousands of job opportunities for the state. However, increased job opportunities means more employees at risk.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that more than 4,000 oil field workers are injured, and more than 100 workers are killed, annually on the job.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 663 workers were killed in oil field jobs between 2007 and 2012. The Houston Chronicle (subscription may be required) analyzed this data and found that Texas alone accounted for approximately 40% of these fatalities.
The newspaper found that 675 individuals suffered fractures, 92 workers suffered burns, 82 workers were crushed and 79 workers suffered from amputations in 2012 alone.
The U. S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board describes onshore oil fields as one of the most dangerous workplaces in America.
Nationally, between 2003-2010, 823 people died on oil and gas extraction sites, according to OSHA. This represented seven times the rate of fatalities for all U.S. industries.
The Houston Chronicle's report cited problems involving proper oversight by the federal government, including OSHA, which the newspaper described as failing to implement proper safety standards and procedures, and not conducting an adequate number of inspections.
OSHA has only 95 inspectors to oversee safety rules, and to investigate accidents, throughout all Texas job sites. Additionally, drilling and well service industry lobbyists have continuously opposed reforms to onshore operations, the Chronicle reports.
The newspaper also reported that poor practices by oil and gas companies led to the injury and death of many oilfield workers.
Realizing why accidents occur and identifying potential risks can help prevent disaster. Some of the most common reasons for oil field accidents in Texas are:
Unfortunately, explosions on oil fields are not uncommon due to the prevalence of flammable materials on site.
Vapors released from the drilling process accumulate over time and can seep into storage containers. Eventually, pressure rises to a point where the containers can no longer hold, causing an explosion in the wake.
In other cases, explosions are caused when sparks fly off equipment and come in contact with combustible materials.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that in 2013 the oil and gas industry was responsible for 10% of all workplace fatalities from fires and explosions, despite employing less than 1% of the total workforce.
Another common cause for oil field accidents is defective products or equipment malfunctions. Workers may work with heavy machinery or equipment that is old or not properly maintained.
The potential to be injured in an accident is greater when an employee is new to the company or does not have training in the profession.
As the drilling industry continues to expand, there are more new and inexperienced workers who are hired and who can pose a risk to others.
There are a variety of injuries that workers can sustain in oil field accidents:
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.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that these accidents and injuries can be prevented. Employers should make sure the following safety guards are in place:
Individuals who have been injured in an oil field accident in Texas may be able to seek recovery for their injuries through either workers' compensation or through a lawsuit against their employer. Read our legal overview on Texas oil industry accidents and laws to learn more about your right to recovery.
Many accidents are the result of negligence of an employer or third party. If you or a loved one has been injured in a Texas oil field accident, you may have grounds to pursue legal action against the responsible party.
If the injuries you received 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 injured due to negligence, Texas law allows you to be compensated for the following.
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.
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).
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