Work in the oil and gas extraction industry may be lucrative, but it can also be extremely hazardous. Approximately 100 workers are killed in oil field accidents each year in the United States, but the oil and gas extraction industry accounts for a shocking 74 percent of the nation's mining sector workplace fatalities, according to a 2017 report from the AFL-CIO.
Additionally, during the U.S. oil boom from 2003 to 2010, the oil and gas extraction industry had a grim fatality rate—seven times higher than other industries. Though the fatality rate has improved a bit in recent years, the industry still has a lot of work to do.
In a workplace environment that's inherently dangerous, learning to recognize potential safety hazards and accident causes is essential to preventing worker fatalities.
Safety Hazards Commonly Associated With Oil Field Work
Oil and gas drilling and well servicing requires workers to work with and around a wide variety of potential hazards, including complex machinery, dangerous equipment and toxic chemicals—any of which could prove deadly under the wrong circumstances.
Some of the most common fatal oil field accidents include:
- Vehicle collisions. Approximately four out of every 10 oil and gas workers killed on the job die in highway vehicle collisions that occur during the transportation of workers and equipment to and from well sites.
- Struck-by/Caught-in/Caught-between incidents. These accidents account for three out of every five on-the-job fatalities in the oil and gas industry.
- Explosions and fires. These incidents occur when flammable gases or vapors ignite.
- Falls. Drilling platforms and equipment are often located high above the ground, which can put workers at risk for serious or fatal injuries.
- Confined spaces. Oil and gas workers are frequently required to work in confined spaces, where they may be at risk of asphyxiation and exposure to hazardous chemicals, including flammable vapors or gases.
- High-pressure lines and equipment. High-pressure lines or equipment with internal erosion can leak or burst, exposing oil field workers to compressed gases and other hazards.
- Hazardous energy. Uncontrolled electrical, hydraulic, or mechanical energy pose serious risk to workers.
- Machine hazards. Oil field workers are exposed to a variety of machines with potentially dangerous moving parts, such as compressors, conveyors, and rotating wellhead equipment.
Common Causes of Fatal Oil Field Accidents
Fatal oil field accidents can be caused by any number of factors, including:
- A demanding, fast-paced work environment
- Insufficient job training
- Inadequate workplace safety training or procedures
- Poorly-maintained vehicles and equipment
- Fatigued workers
To prevent fatal oil field accidents, some solutions are more obvious than others. For example, companies could potentially reduce and prevent fatal accidents caused by insufficient job or safety training by improving training processes and providing workers with periodic safety training refreshers. Oil companies could also make sure vehicles and equipment are properly maintained, and that workers have plenty of time to rest between shifts.
However, some Texas safety experts and oil field companies are thinking outside the box, holding monthly meetings with representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to brainstorm new and better ways to keep oil field workers safe.
Consult an Experienced Oil Field Accident Attorney
If your family member or loved one was killed in an oil field accident caused by someone's negligent actions, you may be entitled to compensation for a broad range of damages. McGartland Law Firm's award-winning legal team can review the details of your case and help determine whether filing a wrongful death lawsuit is appropriate for your family and your situation. Don't wait—contact McGartland Law Firm today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case consultation.