If someone is looking for a job that pays well and doesn’t require a GED or college degree, working in an oil patch is an appealing prospect. Oil field workers, independent contractors and well site consultants can make six figures, and the schedule allows for months off at a time. However, these benefits come with a high risk. Workers, contractors and consultants in the oil and gas extraction industry are seven times more likely to die on the job than those in other industries. It’s grueling, stressful work, and the hours are long—many clock in for 12 hours, seven days a week. To worsen things, some companies will cut corners when oil demand is high, which creates deadly conditions for their typically overworked or undertrained employees and the independent contractors and well site consultants.
Many oil patch accidents are entirely preventable and happen because of a disregard for workers’ conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited oil companies for nearly 11,000 violations over a 10-year period. Most citations were categorized as serious safety risks, and 3% of companies received repeat warnings, repeat warnings. In the same time frame, 1,566 oil field workers died on the job. If you’re injured while working in the oil field industry, you may feel pressure to file a workers’ compensation claim and accept a settlement instead of pursuing your legal options. Your first call should be to an experienced oilfield accident lawyer.
Oil companies don’t offer settlements out of kindness. These businesses have multi-billion dollar budgets and a team of attorneys whose mission is to get injured employees or contractors to settle for as little as possible. In the traumatic days following a workplace accident, accepting the compensation offered by an employer may seem like the easiest option. But there’s a good chance you’ll be losing out if you agree to their proposal.
Types of Oil Field Accidents
One of the biggest dangers in “the oil patch” is inadequate training and experience. It’s an oil and gas company’s vital responsibility to hire capable workers, properly train them, and equip them with the latest safety gear and protocols. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are a few of the most common oil field accidents that cause injuries and exposure to harmful environmental conditions.
Toxic Chemical Exposure
Oil drilling and fracking both involve harmful chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and methane. These chemicals can be breathed in over time, causing harmful long-term exposure effects. Personal protective equipment (PPE) like safety goggles, gloves, and respirators reduces the chances of toxic chemical injuries. When oil and gas companies prioritize demand for production over caution for human life, there are dangerous results. Companies should train workers in how to handle hazardous chemicals and what to do after accidental exposure.
Fires and Explosions
With so many volatile chemicals on-site, it’s no surprise that oil rigs pose a high risk for fire and explosions. The result can be catastrophic, as evidenced by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Even if a fire doesn’t cause billions of dollars in damage, it can still injure or kill rig workers. Malfunctioning equipment, electricity failures, and human error are all to blame for oil rig fires.
Falling From Extreme Heights
Some oil workers, like derrickhands, sit atop equipment 100 feet in the air (The term derrickhands came from Thomas Derrick, who was an English executioner. Derrick became known as the frame from which the hangman’s noose was supported, and modern-day is a term used for cranes). A fall from a derrick has an over 90% mortality rate. Even if workers survive, they’ll be left with lifelong injuries like broken bones, brain damage, and spinal cord injuries. Falls are avoidable with proper safety gear and training, but workers aren’t always trained correctly.
Injury By Falling Objects
The machinery and equipment on an oil rig must be adequately secured. Otherwise, the equipment can fall and injure or kill workers below. Additionally, if workers aren’t required to wear protective gear like hard hats, they’ll be even more susceptible to serious injury when objects fall.
Do You Have An Oil Field Injury Case?
After an oil field accident injury, an employer and their insurance company will conduct an investigation to assign fault. Don’t be surprised if they determine that they weren’t negligent — that’s why hiring a lawyer is essential. A lawyer familiar with oil patch accident cases will conduct extensive investigations into the physical and cultural factors surrounding the on-the-job oil and gas incident. Several other factors that can increase the likelihood of a successful claim include:
- Defective tools
- Lack of protective gear
- Improperly maintained equipment
- Lack of training (workers not sufficiently trained are left at risk)
- Not allowing employees to take breaks
- Inadequate emergency protocols leave workers unprotected
Tragically, oil field accidents can end in death. Losing a spouse, child, or parent in an oil patch incident causes unspeakable pain, and you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim. You’ll be eligible to recover damages for things like mental pain, lost earning capacity, and lost companionship. Contact The Cochran Firm Texas for a free case evaluation if you have been injured in an oil field accident. Oil companies expect you to be scared of their legal teams, but our expert oil field accident attorneys are used to dealing with these companies and will work to get you the settlement you deserve. Call 1-800-THE FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out our contact form today.
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.