7 Things to Know About Oil Rig Accidents

Jad J. Stepp

Many people who get into the offshore industry do so because of the considerably large paychecks they receive (which makes sense).

However, there is a danger that goes with the job, which can cause massive problems both with their ability to work and for their life as a whole. In fact, oil rig workers are seven times more likely than other workers to die in their line of work.

If you work on an oil rig, you should know the different types of oil rig accidents that can occur, how to safeguard yourself, and who to contact when something happens.

If someone you know works on an oil rig, it’s probably all you think about.

Let’s get into accidents on oil rigs (and who’s responsible at the end of the day).

The 7 Most Important Things to Know about Oil Rig Accidents

We’ve broken our list down into a couple of important features.

First, it’s useful to know the kinds of risks you face offshore working on an oil or drill rig.

Second, we want to give you information on the common causes of oil rig accidents (so you can avoid them now and in the future). 

Lastly, we want to talk about who is liable for these kinds of accidents and what kind of action you can take if you’re in one.

Let’s get into it.

1. Risk: Lack of Oversight

The first thing to understand in regard to risks is the lack of oversight in oil fields and oil rigs.

Like any other busy place, some things are going to be left by the wayside. Typically, we hope that these forgotten aspects aren’t safety and training, but sometimes oil rig workers aren’t trained properly, aren’t given access to safety equipment, and aren’t supervised properly.

This could even mean that safety policies that are normally in place won’t be followed due to time constraints or schedules, which creates a very dangerous situation for workers.

Obviously, these factors are a recipe for disaster, which means that taking individual action for your own safety is critical.

2. Risk: Difficulty of the Job

Oil rigging is a difficult, physical job full of strenuous manual labor, which means that fatigue plays a huge role in a worker’s ability to do their job safely.

This gets worse when you consider the extremely long shifts (weeks of 12-hour or more days).

This makes oil rig accidents all the more likely.

3. Risk: Environmental Hazards

Working an offshore rig means that there’s a significant environmental hazard to your work that most other workers don’t have to consider.

For instance, surfaces can become slippery when they’re wet (either by water or the fluids used in the rigging process). This becomes an even larger problem when equipment isn’t secured properly, creating an even more dangerous situation out of a slipping hazard.

4. Common Injuries: Broken Bones and Back injuries

Broken bones and back injuries are a particularly large portion of oil rig accidents because there’s a large amount of heavy equipment and machinery.

Workers are also working at height, which means that any fall means several broken bones (if not worse).

5. Common Injuries: Brain and Neck and Back Injuries

Due to the nature of offshore oil rigs, heavy objects have the tendency to shift drastically, meaning that the risk of something heavy falling and hitting the head or neck of a worker is high.

This problem is exacerbated by poor cleanliness standards and a lack of safety oversight. What should normally be well-secured might not be properly tied or locked down, meaning it could shift and fall to a lower deck, hitting an employee.

A hard hat won’t always be able to protect you when the object falling is significantly larger than you.

6. Common Injuries: Burns (Fire and Chemical)

Most people probably think of oil fires when they think about oil rig accidents, and for good reason – these events are devastating disasters.

For instance, take the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010 – the explosions sunk the entire rig, creating a massive environmental catastrophe and killing 11 people. 

Fire isn’t the only problem, either – the chemicals used in oil rigging can be abrasive to human skin, meaning that workers without proper protection and safeguards can suffer from severe chemical burns.

7. How Liability Works

Now that we’ve talked about the risks and common injuries in oil rig accidents, we should talk about who is liable for these things.

Luckily for rig workers, there are a few laws in place that protect them in the event of oil rig accidents.

First, there’s the Jones Act, which allows offshore rig workers to file claims against their company (including other employees) in the event that their safety was compromised. Perhaps the most important piece of legislature to know, this act allows workers to receive some justice when their livelihood is compromised by poor workplace practices.

Secondly, for workers that are on jack-up or near shore rigs, there’s legislature called the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, which may apply, and which acts as a protective measure for workers who are injured on the job. This act helps pay for things like medical care and rehab services for workers who are injured in oil rig accidents (or other offshore accidents).

As an oil rig worker, it’s vital for you to understand these acts and how they apply to your situation. They could just mean the difference between further compromising your life and having your entire medical care paid for (which should be the outcome).

Now What?

Now that you know the risks and causes of oil rig accidents, as well as who is liable for these problems, you’re well prepared for whatever may happen, whether you’re a rig worker or a family member of one.

Need legal counsel? Contact one of our maritime law attorneys for advice on what you should do in the event of injury and whether or not you have a case. We’ll help you get your life back on track after a tragic incident.

You can also contact us by email or phone with questions or concerns.

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