The oil and gas industry stands as a cornerstone of global energy production, driving economies and fueling the world’s energy needs. Yet, within this industrious realm lies an environment with many hazards and risks that can lead to a variety of accidents and injuries. Understanding the common accidents and injuries that plague oil fields is pivotal to safeguarding the workforce’s wellbeing and protecting their legal rights.
Texas is one of the nation’s leading producers in the oil and gas industry. The many oil fields and operations in the state employ thousands of people. It is important that anyone working in an oil field be aware of the hazards and how to respond if an injury occurs. Workers in the oil and gas industry have rights, including the right to pursue compensation if their injuries are due to negligence.
At Kherkher Garcia, our oil and gas injury lawyers help workers and their families understand their legal rights and how to get help when tragedy strikes. The article below provides information about the hazards associated with oil fields, and how families can get help protecting their rights.
Oil Fields in Texas
Texas is home to a vast and diverse array of oil fields, playing a major role in shaping the state’s economy and contributing significantly to the nation’s overall oil production. Here’s a glimpse into the fascinating world of Texas oil fields:
- Permian Basin: This sprawling behemoth in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico accounts for nearly 40% of all US oil production and 15% of natural gas. Within the Permian, the Delaware Basin holds immense potential, estimated to contain billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
- East Texas Oil Field: A historic giant discovered in 1930, it remains the second-largest in the US outside Alaska and boasts impressive production exceeding 5 billion barrels to date. This field was instrumental in boosting Texas’ oil prominence.
- Eagle Ford Shale: This shale formation in South Texas utilizes advanced technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas, contributing significantly to the state’s production.
- Barnett Shale: Located in North Texas, the Barnett Shale is a major natural gas producer, utilizing similar technological advancements.
- Spindletop: Renowned for its 1901 gusher that revolutionized the oil industry, Spindletop continues to produce despite its age.
- Wasson and Yates Fields: These mature conventional fields in the Permian Basin leverage carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery, extending their productive lifespans.
- Cliffside Gas Field: In West Texas, this field focuses on natural gas production.
How Common are Oil Field Accidents?
Oil field accidents, unfortunately, are quite common due to the inherently dangerous nature of the work and the hazardous materials involved. While specific numbers can vary depending on the data source and definition of “accident,” here’s a general picture:
- In the United States, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) reported 19 fatalities and 106 injuries in the offshore oil and gas industry between 2015 and 2020.
- Globally, the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) reported 25 deaths in 22 separate incidents in 2019, with the largest proportion attributed to “caught in, under, or between” incidents.
- Data on overall injuries in oil fields is harder to find, but various studies and reports highlight their prevalence. For instance, a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report based on National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) findings identified 69 deaths in the oil and gas industry in the US, with 44 occurring in Texas alone.
Because the oil and gas industry is so large, it is difficult to truly understand how accidents and injuries affect workers, their families, and their communities. As the data above shows, however, there is significant risk to working in oil fields and related occupations.
Common Accidents on Oil Fields
Working on oil fields involves various hazardous tasks, and accidents can occur due to the high-risk nature of the industry. Some common accidents that happen on oil fields include:
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Oil fields often have uneven terrain, slippery surfaces due to oil spills, and various equipment and pipes scattered across the area, leading to slips, trips, and falls.
Fires and Explosions
The presence of flammable materials such as oil, gas, and chemicals increases the risk of fires and explosions, which can be caused by equipment malfunctions, sparks, or human errors.
Oil fields often involve the use of heavy machinery, trucks, and vehicles for transportation and operations, leading to accidents such as collisions, rollovers, or vehicle-related injuries.
Struck-By or Caught-In/Between Accidents
Workers can be injured by being struck by moving equipment, falling objects, or caught in or between heavy machinery, leading to serious injuries or fatalities.
Chemical Exposure and Toxic Releases
Exposure to hazardous chemicals and toxic substances used in drilling or production processes can lead to health issues, including respiratory problems, skin irritations, or long-term health complications.
Equipment Malfunctions and Failures
Machinery and equipment used in drilling, extraction, or transportation can malfunction or fail, causing accidents such as equipment collapses, mechanical failures, or unexpected movements.
Accidents related to high-pressure systems, including bursting pipelines, sudden releases of pressure, or blowouts during drilling operations, pose significant risks to workers’ safety.
Working in extreme temperatures prevalent in oil field locations can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke, dehydration, or exhaustion.
Falling Objects and Overhead Hazards
Heavy equipment, tools, or materials being lifted or suspended can fall, posing a risk to workers below, especially if proper safety measures and precautions are not in place.
Confined Space Incidents
Accidents can occur when workers enter confined spaces for maintenance, inspection, or repair work, leading to risks like asphyxiation, entrapment, or exposure to hazardous gases.
To mitigate these risks, oil field companies typically implement stringent safety protocols, provide comprehensive safety training to workers, enforce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), conduct regular inspections, and prioritize adherence to safety regulations and standards.
Common Injuries in Oil Field Accidents
Oil field accidents can result in various types of injuries due to the hazardous nature of the work environment. Some common injuries sustained in oil field accidents include:
Explosions, fires, or contact with flammable materials can cause severe burns, ranging from first-degree (minor) to third-degree (severe) burns, requiring immediate medical attention and often leading to long-term consequences.
Fractures and Orthopedic Injuries
Accidents involving heavy machinery, falls, or being struck by objects can lead to bone fractures, broken limbs, joint injuries, or musculoskeletal trauma.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
Falls, vehicle accidents, or being struck by equipment can result in head injuries, concussions, or more severe traumatic brain injuries, causing long-term cognitive impairment or disabilities.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Falls from heights, vehicle accidents, or being caught in machinery can cause damage to the spinal cord, resulting in paralysis, loss of sensation, or mobility issues.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Sprains, strains, muscle tears, or other soft tissue injuries can occur due to overexertion, slips, falls, or sudden movements while working on the oil field.
Accidents involving heavy equipment, machinery, or collapsing structures can result in crush injuries, causing severe tissue damage, internal bleeding, and possible amputations.
Chemical Exposure Injuries
Exposure to hazardous chemicals, gases, or toxic substances used in oil field operations can lead to chemical burns, respiratory issues, skin irritations, or long-term health complications.
Contact with debris, chemicals, or foreign objects can cause eye injuries, ranging from minor irritation to severe damage or vision loss.
Lacerations and Penetrating Injuries
Working with sharp tools, equipment, or handling materials can lead to cuts, puncture wounds, or deep lacerations requiring medical attention.
Heatstroke, heat exhaustion, or dehydration can occur due to exposure to high temperatures prevalent in oil field locations, especially during strenuous work in hot environments.
These injuries can have significant physical, emotional, and financial impacts on the workers involved. Furthermore, injuries from oil field accidents can impact families and communities in tremendous ways.
Oil and Gas Workers’ Rights if They are Injured On The Job
Oil and gas workers have rights protected by state and federal laws if they sustain injuries while on the job. Workers injured on oil fields generally have the following rights:
Worker’s Compensation Benefits
Injured workers typically have the right to file for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits cover medical expenses, a portion of lost wages during recovery, and vocational rehabilitation if the injury affects the ability to work. Workers’ compensation is usually available regardless of fault and is designed to provide prompt aid without the need to prove employer negligence.
Right to Medical Treatment
Injured workers have the right to receive appropriate medical treatment for their work-related injuries. This includes necessary medical care, surgeries, therapies, medications, and rehabilitation services to recover from the injury.
Workers have the right to report workplace injuries without fear of retaliation from their employer. Employers cannot fire, demote, or take adverse actions against employees for filing workers’ compensation claims or reporting injuries.
Right to Disability Benefits
If the injury results in a disability or permanent impairment that affects the ability to work, the injured worker may be entitled to disability benefits, which can be temporary or permanent, based on the severity and nature of the injury.
Legal Rights to Pursue Compensation
In some cases where the injury results from negligence or unsafe working conditions caused by a third party (not the employer), injured workers might have the right to file a lawsuit against the responsible party for additional compensation beyond workers’ compensation benefits.
Safety Standards and Training
Workers have the right to a safe work environment. Employers are responsible for providing adequate safety training, ensuring compliance with safety regulations, and maintaining safe working conditions to prevent injuries.
Right to Legal Representation
Injured workers have the right to seek legal counsel and representation to navigate workers’ compensation claims, ensure fair treatment, and explore legal options if necessary, especially in cases involving severe injuries or disputes.
It is crucial for oil and gas workers to be aware of their rights and seek assistance from an experienced oil and gas injury lawyer if they suffer injuries on the job.
Get Help After an Oil Field Injury
Oil fields are hazardous work environments, and it is up to employers to ensure that workers have proper training, supervisions, and safety equipment. When employers fail to meet this duty and injuries occur, workers can pursue compensation. With the help of a skilled oil and gas injury lawyer, workers can obtain compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and more.
If you need help after an oil field injury, Kherkher Garcia can help. Our lawyers have more than 30 years of experience helping victims of oil and accident incidents. We can help you explore your rights and options, and pursue the compensation that you deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 713-333-1030, or fill out our online form.