It’s difficult to overstate the dangers inherent in working in a Texas oilfield; oil and gas work is difficult, as workers are dealing with dangerous chemicals in often difficult conditions. The environmental dangers, combined with an oil and gas boom in which companies are trying to squeeze ever-larger profits out of each worker means there have been numerous accidents in Lubbock oilfields, leading to a great number of on-the-job injuries including some workplace fatalities.
There are many causes of oilfield accidents, but one of the most common causes is that oilfield workers are made to work long hours without rest, and the fatigue that develops can have a negative effect on their attentiveness, which can lead to errors. Oilfield workers work shifts that sometimes stretch 12 hours. This is especially dangerous when it comes to oil drilling because it requires workers to use heavy machinery, which can malfunction requiring the workers using it to react quickly and safely to rectify the problem.
Another cause of Texas oilfield accidents is the fact that oil is inherently very flammable and also very slick, which means care must be taken to keep fire and sparks away from work areas and to keep them clean to prevent slips and falls, which are a common source of injury at an oilfield site. Quite often, the companies that own and run drilling operations decide to maximize profits by taking shortcuts with regard to worker safety in order to maximize profits, and they don’t pay close enough attention to the details that can put workers at greater risk for injury or death on the job.
The combination of worker fatigue and employer neglect in a naturally dangerous and stressful environment is a recipe for occupational disaster. The fact of the matter is, oilfield employers have a duty to keep workers safe. Both oilfield owners and operators, as well as equipment manufacturers, owe workers a duty of care to make sure drilling and extraction equipment is manufactured to high standards and maintained at those high standards.
What Causes Oilfield Accidents?
As mentioned above, there are virtually limitless causes of oilfield accidents. Whether it’s due to machinery malfunction, spills, or other environmental factors, human error is usually found at the root of any workplace accident. Proper investigation and questioning can help find the truth about what caused a worker’s injury. In addition to the cases mentioned above, other causes of oilfield accidents include:
- Defective, faulty equipment – If a company fails to properly inspect and maintain the equipment used in its oilfield, it can lead to the equipment malfunctioning and injuring a worker.
- Explosions and fires – Oilfield explosions are sudden and unpredictable. It is hard – if not impossible – for workers to get out of the way fast enough to avoid being catastrophically injured in an oilfield fire.
- Exposure to toxic chemicals and materials – Refineries, drilling sites, and oilfields all emit toxic fumes that can harm workers internally and/or externally if they are not given the proper training or the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Rig collapses – When oil rigs go down, they can hurt more than one person and can result in a workplace fatality. Improper maintenance of rigs or failing to adhere to the rules regarding how to check rigs for stability are dangerous but unfortunately, common corners oilfield companies like to cut in order to put profits before people.
- Well blowouts – When pressure control systems fail, crude oil can release from an oil well and permanently damage or burn everything around it, including anyone working nearby.
- Transportation – Natural resources extracted from the ground have to be transported from the drilling site. This is where oil rig trucks come in. These big rigs can experience explosions as well since they play a huge role in transporting workers, drilling equipment, waste, and oil and gas from the oilfield. Workplace trucking accidents can also occur when equipment is not properly secured on a truck. The roadways around an oilfield can be rocky and unkempt as well, causing truck accidents similar to those that would happen on any bad road.
- Spills – If any oil is released or spilled, this enhances the chances of workers slipping or having equipment fall on them. In addition, if just a little spark occurs, it can cause the spill to turn into a huge fire, the likes of which could happen very quickly.
Common Oilfield Accident Injuries
While oilfield accidents can prove fatal, they also cause many other specific injuries, including:
- Broken bones and fractures – Equipment can fall on a worker if someone isn’t paying attention to it. Pieces of equipment can also fall on workers. If a worker slips or falls, they can fracture or break any part of their body.
- Burns – Since oil and gas are highly flammable, if any explosion occurs or warm or hot oil accidentally gets on a worker’s skin, workers can get burned, especially without proper protection.
- Lung damage – Too much exposure to toxic chemicals can erode a person’s lungs over time and even cause lung cancers such as mesothelioma.
- Loss of senses – Oilfield workers can suffer vision loss or hearing loss due to chemicals getting in their eyes, head trauma, repetitive stress injuries, vibrations, and more.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – Head trauma can be caused when a worker falls from heights they must climb to do their jobs or from falling equipment and other mechanical parts hitting them on the head.
- Wrongful death – Workplace fatalities are the worst-case scenarios for any oilfield accident; and, unfortunately, these preventable deaths can happen in various ways when working in distilleries, drilling sites, or oilfields. Wrongful death can occur slowly or very suddenly in tragic oilfield accidents.
Accidents involving oilfield workers can produce severe injuries, including devastating burns, broken bones, toxic exposure to hazardous chemicals that can lead to long-term illnesses, and many more. Whenever someone responsible for keeping workers safe is negligent in their duties, there are numerous state and federal laws and regulations designed to help an injured oilfield worker recover physically and financially and/or to compensate a family for the loss of a loved one.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an oilfield accident, please contact the oilfield injury lawyers at Liggett Law Group to schedule a free initial consultation to discover your next step. Firm founder Ted Liggett has spent his entire legal career fighting on behalf of the little guy against big companies and insurance carriers. His team of experienced trial lawyers and legal staff take every case personally and get to know each client, treating them as part of their extended family. We would be honored to help your family through this difficult time.