Working on an oil rig remains lucrative but does not come without its dangers. Yet, more than 127,000 work in the oil and gas extraction industries in the U.S., exposing themselves to severe or life-changing injuries.
Despite the industry’s strict regulations and safety protocols, companies sometimes fail to ensure their employees’ safety, leaving themselves open to liability for injuries.
Causes and Common Types of Oil Rig Injuries
Data from the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) show that fatalities across the industry dropped by 16% in 2020. These figures reflect a steady decrease in fatal accident rates, lowering them by 33% from the previous year.
However, the data reported from operations in 94 countries also showed that despite a 24% drop in injuries, these still led to 15,631 lost work days in 2020.
Causes of Accidents
Common causes of oil rig accidents include falls, equipment failure, fires, explosions, well blowouts, fumes, and hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, other reasons include poor maintenance, safety rule failure, employee negligence, third-party negligence, the lack of safety equipment and safeguards, defective machinery, collapsing rigs, entrapment, unsecured machinery, and accidents with shipping tankers.
The demands of remaining highly productive often have these consequences because the industry is fast-paced. As a result, workers may cut corners to complete tasks, and sometimes safety procedures are neglected to keep pace with the demands. Workers in fast-paced jobs also tend to use more stimulants to remain alert, often causing injuries. However, this has led to more stringent testing in the industry.
Lack of training is another huge problem on oil rigs. These people use heavy and dangerous equipment and machinery which require experience. Even though equipment failures cause accidents, inadequate training can lead to workers getting trapped in equipment like rotary tables, spinning chains, tongs, etc.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ( OSHA) shows that a lack of safeguards is a massive problem for the industry. For example, the hazards found on oil rigs require proper face, eye, head, and respiratory protection equipment. Furthermore, a good maintenance plan, regular inspections, and safety devices like barriers, tripwires, etc., contribute to safer workspaces.
The oil industry has the highest accident rate after industrial construction, and its workers often suffer severe injuries. These include a wide range of injuries that range from amputations to broken hips and severe burns.
In order, the most common injuries include:
- Amputations – particularly of the finger or fingertip but also of extremities
- Bone fractures – particularly leg fractures
- Traumatic brain, back, and spinal cord injuries from falls
- Puncture wounds and lacerations
- All types of burns, including from chemicals – are often caused by explosions or electrocutions
- Hearing loss from loud equipment
- Eye injuries and vision loss – caused by chemicals or equipment misuse
Getting Compensation After an Oilfield Injury
If you have an injury suffered on an oil rig, you can claim compensation for any losses from the workers’ compensation fund.
Benefits You Can Receive from Workers’ Compensation
As an oil rig worker injured on the job, you must receive compensation by lodging a claim for worker’s compensation benefits while recovering from your injuries.
As your employer’s insurance, the fund pays you for necessary medical treatment and provides a portion of your lost wages without you needing to show that your employer was at fault.
You need to immediately contact your employer after you were injured to complete a report and start your compensation process.
Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages with workers’ compensation benefits because you may not get compensation for all your losses and only receive a percentage of your lost wages. Also, you cannot sue your employer for negligence, even if they were.
When Can You Bring a Third-Party Claim?
In some situations, you can bring a third-party claim when injured on an oil rig. One of these is if your employer has not conformed with the law and has no worker’s compensation insurance.
Additionally, if a third party was liable for the accident that caused you injury, you can sue them. These are some examples:
- The machinery manufacturer if your injury resulted from defective machinery or equipment. Manufacturers have a responsibility to sell tested and safe machinery.
- If a merchant or another party caused your injury, a personal injury lawsuit against them could show they breached their duty of reasonable care.
The benefits of a third-party lawsuit include total compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, suffering, disfigurement, and even mental trauma. A wrongful death lawsuit can even result in payment for the death of a worker to their surviving family.
Whatever your injury, you are not an expert, so get immediate medical attention and follow your doctor’s treatment advice to ensure you qualify for worker’s compensation. You have a right to get a second opinion. The next step is to complete the paperwork for your worker’s compensation benefits since you are legally entitled to them.
After that, an experienced oil field and rig injury lawyer can advise you if you are entitled to a third-party claim for your injuries. Their job is to look at the facts and circumstances surrounding your injuries before determining whose fault it was and what you can expect to claim in compensation.