The Eagle Ford Shale’s oil and natural gas resources have brought a lot of jobs and economic opportunity to our area. Unfortunately, the oil boom also caused some companies to take shortcuts that result in greater risk to oil workers where drilling occurs.
At an oil and gas drilling site there is simply no room for negligence. Workers are using heavy equipment and dangerous tools to extract explosive gases from the ground and to do so at a fast pace. Even one small safety lapse can result in a life changing injury or a wrongful death. Whenever something goes wrong at a drilling rig or an oilfield, the results are too often tragic and life altering.
For example, if a worker falls from a rig or that rig collapses, the injuries can be fatal. Of course, even if the fall is not fatal, it can lead to extremely serious injury, including broken bones, lacerations or even traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Equipment failures often lead to the loss of fingers or limbs, or severe lacerations that can cause permanent disfigurement. When blowouts or explosions happen, they can cause severe or even catastrophic burn injuries that can lead to life changing injuries and even death.
According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), during the oil boom, fatal accidents in the oil & gas industry skyrocketed. From 2003 through 2013, there were nearly 1,200 industry fatalities, which comes to about 108 per year, although the numbers rose steadily during that time; the number in 2013 was 27 percent higher than in 2003. The overall fatality rate was 25 deaths per 100,000 workers. Roughly 40 percent of oilfield fatalities were due to transportation accidents, with 26 percent of them due to contact with objects or equipment. Fires and explosions led to more than 14 percent of the deaths, while falls and chemical exposure accounted for most of the rest. Most troubling for Texans was that 40 percent of those fatalities occurred in Texas.
Despite the number of injuries and fatalities in the oilfield industry, the federal government has unable to implement safety standards and procedures for onshore oil and gas drilling for decades. Standards for offshore rigs have been improved since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, in which 11 workers were killed. However, there hasn’t been the same movement when it comes to onshore drilling standards, despite the increase in accidents, injuries and fatalities.
The problem seems to be that the injuries and fatalities at oilfields happen one at a time. When multiple people are killed in a huge explosion that spills a lot of oil, it gets a lot of attention, but when they happen one at a time, it’s not as sensational and there is less impetus to move on health and safety reforms. One report noted a decided lack of safety inspections in the oil and gas industry, despite the common knowledge that some drilling companies are cutting corners and not doing everything they can to keep workers safe.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), claims that the prevention of oil and gas accidents as a priority. The Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) monitors oil field fires and blowouts and it has the power to shut down operations if it uncovers serious problems. However, the TRC and OSHA do not coordinate with each other, so there is very little effective oversight. OSHA has just 95 inspectors available in all of Texas and few of them have training or experience with the oil and gas industry. And they don’t have the authority to shut down a drilling site if they find poor safety conditions. Until safety authorities truly start to take the initiative to enforce health and safety laws, the carnage will continue. Workers and employers must take safety seriously, and it shouldn’t take a criminal violation of the law to make that happen.
Experienced Oil & Gas Injury Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in an accident at an oil & gas production facility, the Oil & Gas Injury Attorney at the Hill Law Firm fully understand the challenges faced by you and your family. While workers’ compensation pays benefits regardless of who was at fault, the benefits are limited; they will not cover everything you have lost. Even though you can’t sue your employer in most circumstances after an accident, you may be entitled to additional compensation if someone other than your employer, like the manufacturer of a piece of equipment, a supplier or a contractor. You may also be entitled to compensation if your employer does not subscribe to Texas workers’ compensation, which means we can file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer.
In addition, the Oil & Gas Injury Attorney at Hill Law Firm is highly skilled when it comes to representing family members who lost a loved one in an oil field accidents. Workers’ compensation will not meet your family’s financial needs after the primary wage earner dies, and we can help you deal with the legal and financial issues you face.