Oil rig accidents in Texas have been happening at an alarming rate in recent years, raising concerns about the safety standards at these sites. The Houston Chronicle recently published an in-depth article about the problem, focusing its attention on several fatal Texas oil rig accidents and the inadequate regulations and haphazard inspection procedures designed to protect workers. In one accident written about by The Houston Chronicle in its article published on Feb. 22, 2014, an oil worker was killed at a drill site when the rig's tower collapsed and crushed him. Subsequent investigations revealed there had been maintenance problems at the same site and another fatality there two weeks earlier.
But perhaps the most startling revelation was that many oil rig accidents in Texas are never investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Specifically, of the 18,000 work-related injuries at onshore oil and gas drilling sites in Texas since 2007, only 150 work-related injuries have been investigated by OSHA. And when OSHA did investigate these Texas oil rig accidents, OSHA discovered safety violations in 78 percent of the Texas accidents. Unfortunately, such news comes as no surprise to our San Antonio oil rig accident lawyers at the Herrera Law Firm, who routinely work with injury victims and their families throughout Texas.
Deadly Oil Rig Accidents on the Rise in Texas
Fatal oil rig accidents in Texas and nationwide have increased at an alarming rate in recent years. In 2012, a total of 65 people in Texas died in oil and gas drilling accidents, according to The Houston Chronicle article. That figure represents a 60 percent increase compared to 2011. Nationwide, 663 people have died in oil and gas drilling accidents between 2007 and 2012, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported by The Houston Chronicle. Nearly 40 percent of those 663 deaths occurred in Texas.
Unlike offshore drilling rigs, the same federal safety regulations do not apply to onshore drilling rigs. Instead, OSHA officials decided in early 1992 to exclude onshore oil and gas rigs from the same safety rules, according to The Houston Chronicle article. As a result, OSHA does not have the authority to shut down an oil drilling rig, even if OSHA inspectors uncover dangerous working conditions that resulted in a fatality. And in some cases, some oil companies have even prevented OSHA inspectors from inspecting an oil rig without an inspection warrant, according to The Houston Chronicle.
But even when companies follow safety procedures, oil rig accidents still sometimes happen due to mistakes made by people working for another company at the same work site. Such accidents are known as third-party workplace accidents. The Houston Chronicle recounted one such horrific oil rig accident, in which two oil rig workers died from burn injuries caused by gas that ignited and burned them alive. The gas that caught fire was from a valve that was accidently left open by a worker who worked for another company at the same work site.
In response to such horrific deaths, OSHA plans to review its safety standards and enforcement methods at onshore oil rigs. The review will encompass all work sites that handle hazardous substances, including oil and gas drilling sites, according to The Houston Chronicle. Hopefully, such a review will result in a more rigorous and thorough investigation process designed to reduce and prevent similar oil rig accidents in Texas in the future.
A personal injury lawyer in San Antonio can help oil rig accident victims. Call the Herrera Law Firm at 1-800-455-1054 or visit www.herreralaw.com to schedule a free consultation.