Oil Rig Injuries

The 5 Most Common Types of Oil Rig Accident Injuries

Working on an oil rig is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. A significant number of oil and gas workers are injured each year aboard oil rigs. These oil rig accident injuries can have devastating effects and can take workers away from their jobs for several weeks and sometimes months. Some injuries can be life-altering and prevent highly skilled employees from working on an oil rig ever again.

The experienced maritime injury attorneys at Pierce Skrabanek have compiled this list of the most common offshore oil rig accidents and injuries. Find out what causes these incidents, and when it’s appropriate to hire a lawyer if you or a loved one have been injured on the job. 

The damages awarded in successful suits under the Jones Act are meant to cover your medical costs, lost wages, loss of potential earnings, and physical therapy. However, they’re also intended to help account for your pain, emotional distress, and the burden that your injuries may place on your loved ones. Don’t hesitate to contact professional legal advocates today to discuss your specific circumstances.

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A group of offshore oil rig workers on the job

The 5 Most Common Types of Oil Rig Accident Injuries

The oil and gas industry is a lucrative, dangerous field of work. Difficult jobs mean a need for tough, specialized employees that should be highly valued for their unique labor skills, but that isn’t always the case. Injuries resulting from offshore rig accidents are unfortunately common due to the fast-paced nature of the work and the lack of safeguards for the sake of productivity.

What follows are the most common types of oil rig accidents that lead to injury and sometimes death.

What Are the Proper Safety Standards on Maritime Job Sites?

1. Fire and Explosion Injuries

Since oil rigs deal principally with flammable oil and materials like hydrogen sulfide gas, burn injuries resulting from fires and explosions are horribly common.

If breakers are not properly maintained, equipment is allowed to become outdated, or fire safety inspections are lax because worker protection isn’t being prioritized, a fire or burn injury is practically inevitable. Burns can be disfiguring, and may lead to loss of limb or a loss of range-of-motion, as for example when permanent scarring tightens or fuses skin together.

You deserve better when doing a dangerous job than just the appearance of safety. If you’ve suffered a fire accident injury on an oil rig, contact an attorney to discuss whether the response to your injury was sufficient enough. A fire that started due to negligence, or was allowed to spread unchecked for too long, is a consequence, not an accident. If your injury was not treated properly or fast enough, the extra damage done and the increased recovery time may deserve compensatory consideration.

2. Transportational Accidents

This accounts for injuries to one’s back or neck caused by lifting heavy machinery or equipment, with or without adequate support like a back brace or belt.

Being ordered to move something quickly could lead to injuries like sprains that worsen every time you move, or herniated discs that could cause long-term disability. Had enough time been granted to utilize a floor jack or dolly, or to find a coworker who could help you with the load, perhaps your injury would not have occurred.

Without allowing for the time required to transport heavy items safely, you may have essentially been set up for a workplace injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may be looking at invasive surgeries, agonizing rehabilitation, and potentially a lifetime of pain and/or disability. These consequences are aspects a lawyer may highlight in arguing for the care that you’ll need going forward.

3. Occupational Exposure

Exposure to toxic chemicals, fumes, or materials at work can cause damage to your lungs, eyes, skin, and/or brain.

The potentially harmful substances on an offshore oil rig can include crude oil, drilling fluids, and chemical solvents. Ingesting or coming into contact with these chemicals could cause allergic reactions, rashes, chemical burns, respiratory problems (including asthma attacks), and possible asphyxiation. An interruption to one’s ability to breathe can quickly result in brain damage as well.

As an oil rig worker, you should be outfitted with gas masks and protective gear whenever you’re tasked with interacting with chemicals directly or indirectly. Expecting an employee to breathe poisonous fumes should not be an option.

4. Amputations, Lacerations, and Crushing Incidents

A severe laceration (deep tissue cut or tear), amputated finger/toe/limb, or crushing injury to the head, limb, or body is traumatic. Whether caused by interacting with hydraulic machinery or being hit by a falling instrument (a scenario we have specifically represented for a $14 million settlement), these injuries can be profound and may mean that you can never work a manual labor job again. 

According to EHS Today (Environment, Health, and Safety), “hand and finger injuries make up nearly 50% of incidents in the oil and gas industry” and at some facilities, up to 80% of all their recordable incidents. A hand injury in particular can mean an overwhelming change in an employee’s life outside of work, affecting his or her ability to drive, dial a phone, eat with utensils, as well as type, write, and/or sign documents, etc. 

The utmost care should be taken to avoid these injuries at all times, but if and when they do occur, the worker deserves every assistance in healing and adapting after the fact. Such support could include:

  • Financial and emotional aid surrounding surgery
  • Physical therapy
  • Implanting or utilizing an artificial limb
  • Retraining or new skill acquisition that needs to be done after such a vital loss—learning how to brush one’s teeth with a non-dominant hand, for instance, takes time, patience, and care

5. Offshore Oil Rig Deaths

A lot can go wrong on the unforgiving terrain of an oil rig. A worker could suffer an immediate fatal injury like electrocution, drowning, head trauma, or a penetrating wound that causes them to bleed out before medical intervention. 

An oil platform death can also occur after the employee is back on land. A post-injury or post-surgical infection is one example. Another is what’s called “dry drowning,” where an ingestion of water through the mouth and/or nose, though it never reaches the lungs, nevertheless causes a spasm that makes the airway close up. 

A heart attack or stroke could also be brought on by the stress of an oil rig job. While the company that employed your loved one in such a dangerous line of work may not consider that a job-related death, an experienced lawyer may know how to prove the connection to a legal standard. This would help provide for a worker’s surviving family members in a wrongful death scenario.

Along with roofers, loggers, and iron workers, derrick operators in oil, gas, and mining have some of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Most people work jobs where death and maiming injuries aren’t a regular occurrence, but for those who do hold jobs in such industries, the risks need to be minimized as much as possible.

Pierce Skrabanek has successfully represented offshore oil rig employees who were injured at work. Hear the following testimonial from Curtis and Cheryl regarding their experience with getting legal representation after Curtis suffered a stroke due to his work on an offshore oil rig.

You deserve better when doing a dangerous job than just the appearance of safety.

Contributing Dangers on Offshore Oil Rigs

A recent study entitled “Work Related Diseases and Injuries on an Oil Rig” in the International Maritime Health Journal conducted an analysis of diseases and injuries of the workers on an American oil rig operating in the Mediterranean sea.

Over the course of one year, they found that the main causes of injuries on the oil rig were:

  • Inattention of workers or personnel: The rote nature of the work on oil rigs can lead to dangerous complacency in workers and supervisors. This contributes to the likelihood of costly and dangerous mistakes.
  • Sleepiness from the crew and workers: A recent study on Traffic Safety estimated that roughly 328,000 drowsy driving crashes occur each year, and those numbers increase around the change of daylight savings time when many people’s sleep schedule is interrupted. This is what sleepiness does to the regular task of operating a motor vehicle, let alone when it comes to operating heavy machinery on an oil rig.
  • Inexperience from new members of the rig: Sometimes there is no better way than to learn than by doing the job. However, in an offshore environment, an inexperienced worker takes his or her life (and potentially the lives of others) into their hands with a trial-and-error approach. 
  • Failure to follow proper safety measures and standards: Unfortunately it is easy to become lax with safety protocols. Perhaps workers get tired of wearing pounds of gear every day in hot, enclosed spaces. Maybe supervisors skip a weekly check that all tools and equipment are clean, up-to-date, and in the right places. And yet the one day that you skip eye goggles or don’t make sure the fire extinguisher is by the door could be the one day you or someone else needs those items the most. 
  • Lack of supervision: The amount of suffering that could be saved by having another pair of eyes on a situation to see dangers before they manifest is potentially limitless. Especially when it comes to new hires, having the engagement of a knowledgeable supervisor could save lives.
  • Defective equipment or tools: Whether it’s due to cost-cutting or the simple human urge to adapt and make-do, sometimes sub-par or semi-operational tools are in use on offshore oil rigs. These are not the areas where quality should be skimped on, because a failure of equipment in the heat of the moment could lead to extreme harm. It could also open liability to the manufacturer of the equipment as well, alongside the vessel owner and hiring company.

Offshore oil rig workers in protective gear and helmets.

Talk to an Offshore Oil Rig Attorney Today

Pierce Skrabanek is proud of our accomplishments in winning justice for offshore oil rig workers and their families. This includes multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of Jones Act seamen who were injured on the job. In one case, that meant arguing for a plaintiff who was struck in the head by a piece of drill pipe that fell nearly 100 feet. In another, providing proof that a client contracted pneumonia while working on a jack-up rig.

If you or a family member was injured due to a job on an offshore oil rig, please contact Pierce Skrabanek either by calling (832) 690-7000 or by filling out our online form. We have extensive experience with maritime injuries and offshore job site justice, and will provide you with a free case evaluation. 

The dedicated work by lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek has garnered multiple awards and honors, including induction into the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and the title of SuperLawyers by Texas Monthly Magazine. We handle all cases on a contingency basis, meaning that we don’t get paid unless we win or settle on your behalf.

Oil Rig Accidents FAQ

Common offshore oil rig injuries include: 

  • Fire and explosion injuries like burns
  • Transportational accidents due to moving heavy machinery
  • Occupational exposure to harsh chemicals
  • Amputations, lacerations, and crushing incidents
  • Traumatic fatalities or those caused by stresses on human health

In a job field with very little room for error, the likelihood of oil rig accidents can be increased by the inattention of workers or personnel, sleepiness from the crew, or worker inexperience. Also, failures to follow proper safety measures and standards, a lack of supervision, and/or defective equipment or tools can lead to catastrophic injury.

Sometimes in order to prove your injuries were related to oil rig work, or that they were a consequence of negligence, it takes a dedicated lawyer to argue on your behalf. Even when an employer acknowledges these facts, the workers’ compensation provided may not be enough to account for the aftermath of the injuries sustained. Again, an offshore injury attorney can help you seek further consideration.