The offshore oil and gas industry is like a thick thread running right through the fabric of American society. Our nation depends on the billions of dollars the industry produces each year. Without it, the economy would struggle. Yet to say that the industry is perfect would be untrue. The industry is seriously flawed in more ways than one. The serious dangers and safety risks faced by oil rig workers is a prime example of this.
The Risks and Dangers of Working an Oil Rig
The pay is lucrative, but the hours are long. And depending on where you work and how careful you are, working on an offshore oil rig can be quite dangerous. Thousands of safety incidents occur each year. Common risks include:
- In normal, everyday life, slipping, tripping, or falling may leave you with minor bruises or scrapes. But if you’re on an oil rig, where platforms are often hundreds of feet in the air, a seemingly-innocuous fall can lead to broken bones, brain damage, or any number of serious injuries.
- Struck-by hazards. Did you know that struck-by hazards are one of the top killers of oilfield workers? To prevent these injuries, workers need to be meticulous about properly attaching tools to belts, always using the appropriate guardrail systems, wearing hard hats and protective equipment, never standing directly beneath suspended loads, and performing daily inspections on any equipment that could easily become dislodged.
- Oil and sparks don’t mix well. There will always be the risk of fires and explosions on offshore rigs. Staying aware of this risk will prevent people from making silly mistakes that could produce catastrophic results.
- Transportation accidents. These are one of the leading causes of both injuries and fatalities among oil and gas industry employees. Transportation accidents happen in the process of getting employees from land to the oil rig (or vice versa). This may involve a combination of boats, cars, and helicopters.
Bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries, neck injuries, cuts and lacerations, fire and chemical burns, respiratory issues, hearing and vision loss – these are just some of the injuries that result from oil rig incidents. In serious cases, even death can occur.
Helpful Tips and Strategies for Staying Safe
While significant reform is needed at the top level of the industry, you don’t have time to fight that battle. Your best bet, as an individual oil rig worker, is to maximize your safety through thoughtful, proactive safety habits. Here are a few tips:
- Take training programs seriously. Don’t scoff at training programs, no matter how many times you’ve sat through the content. Responsible behaviors are often cultivated through repetitive exposure.
- Always wear protective gear. Don’t take shortcuts. Whether it’s safety harnesses, helmets, or eye protection, you should always wear the appropriate gear. It’s better to be uncomfortable and safe than comfortable and at-risk.
- Inspect everything. Perform visual inspections on any piece of equipment you plan to use – regardless of when it was last checked.
- Get adequate sleep. Many oil rig injuries happen as a result of a lack of focus or energy. Make sure you get adequate sleep during your time away from work.
- Hold others accountable. People need to be called out when they do something stupid or unsafe. When there’s a culture of accountability, there’s less that can go wrong.
Just as you hold your peers accountable – you should hold your employer accountable too. If they fail to provide a safe work environment, you have every right to bring a claim against them
“No matter what type of vessel you work on, whether that be a ship or an oil platform or in some other type of coastal position, when someone else’s negligent actions have caused you to suffer serious injury, you have the right to hold them accountable,” New Orleans maritime law firm Braud & Gallagher explains.
The key is to hire a lawyer right away so you can protect your best interests, preserve evidence, and formulate a strong claim that allows you to maximize your payout to account for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and all of the other expenses associated with your injury.
While you know that your role as an oil and gas worker is inherently risky when you enter into the career, this doesn’t mean that someone else’s carelessness is justified. Even if you don’t think you have a claim, it’s worth exploring your situation to make a more informed decision.