Four people were seriously injured last month in an explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery near Houston, further underscoring oil workers’ dangerous conditions. Oil companies entice workers with big paychecks and extended time off, but the job comes with hazards. Employees often work 12-hour shifts for two weeks straight regardless of the weather. The work is physically grueling, and injuries are unfortunately common.
One of the most severe concerns for oil patch workers, contractors and consultants is the risk of facing fires and explosions. There are about 100 oil rig fires every year in the U.S. or about one every three days. While these accidents are comparatively rare, they’re often deadly. Oil rig deaths are historically underreported, so it’s difficult to know how many fatalities are caused by oil field accidents. Even in best-case scenarios, oil refinery fires still cause serious injuries.
On December 23, contractors at the Texas oil refinery were tasked with sealing a leaking pipe filled with naphthalene, a highly flammable gas. A valve wrench began to spark and ignited the naphthalene during the process, causing an explosion that locals felt from miles away. The workers had to jump 20 feet to escape the blaze and were left with severe burns, broken legs, and spinal injuries.
Fires and Explosions in the Oil Industry
Oil and gas are highly flammable, and one spark is enough to cause an explosion. Defective equipment, faulty electrical wiring, and chemical spills can lead to oil rig fires. Refineries are supposed to instill safet measures to reduce the chance of disaster, but not every oil company holds itself to strict standards. Oil workers often complain about being overworked and not having adequate safety equipment, which can quickly lead to a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. After the infamous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the crew working on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig recalled being short-staffed and fatigued. Oil workers must always be attentive and vigilant about any potential risks. One mistake could lead to injury or death.
Some of the workers injured in the Baytown explosion have claimed that ExxonMobil fell short of its duty in several ways, including failing to adequately supervise workers, not implementing an emergency plan, not warning of potential job hazards, and forcing employees and contractors to work in dangerous conditions. It’s not yet clear how the oil company will respond to the allegations, but the complaints raise questions about whether they took enough action to keep workers safe.
Oil and gas companies have deep pockets and legal teams that do their best to get injured workers, contractors or consultants to accept settlements instead of hiring an oil field accident attorney. A settlement may seem like an easy way to get reimbursed, but it’s unlikely that their first offer will sufficiently compensate you. Explosions can cause burns serious enough that the injured person is left unable to work for extended periods. Explosion injuries can also lead to mental pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of future earning potential, and much more.
If you’re injured in an oil field accident, you’ll likely be hit with a flurry of medical bills and might feel overwhelmed about how to move forward. To make things even more stressful, you may need more than an oil company is willing to pay in a settlement. An oil field accident attorney can help determine your best options for getting the reimbursement you deserve.
When choosing an oil field accident attorney, it’s essential to find someone with experience in the industry who’s expertly familiar with oil companies and how they handle accidents. Many attorneys say you can trust them with oil field cases, but you should find an oil field attorney with a successful track record. Our team at The Cochran Firm Texas will advocate for you after an oil field accident. We offer free case reviews and consultations and make sure you get the best legal representation possible.
Tulsa native Kevinn Matthews received his B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University and his J.D. from the University of Tulsa College of Law. Before transitioning into private practice, Kevinn spent more than a decade as an oil field litigation attorney, serving as both In-House Counsel for energy companies and a voice for injured workers who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks. He recognizes that these workers risk their lives to provide essential energy sources for the country and is fiercely passionate about making sure those responsible for their injuries are held accountable.