Our San Antonio Oilfield Accident Lawyers Discuss the Dangers
Few workplaces pose more hazards to an employee’s safety than oil fields.
As the nation’s top producer of gas and oil, no state knows this better than Texas. In 2019, the most recent information available, nearly 50 workers died in Texas oilfield accidents.
While serious workplace accidents can happen in any industry, oilfields are particularly dangerous worksites. This is due to the use of heavy machinery, dangerous materials, and the overall difficulty of predicting the nature of oil and gas extraction.
San Antonio is nearby thousands of active Bexar County wells and the Eagle Ford Shale.
With so many potential hazards, it’s not easy to rank which dangers pose the most risk, but OSHA did it.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a top 10 list of the biggest risks to oilfield worker health and safety.
Top 10 Risks to Oilfield Worker Safety
In order from most to least risk, here are just some of the dangers workers face working in gas and oil fields.
Oil fields are typically in remote locations, which means workers are transported to and from the sites daily. Car and truck accidents on highways are the number one killer of gas and oil extraction worker deaths. About 4 out of every 10 industry deaths involve a motor vehicle, OSHA says.
Struck by, caught in, or caught between items, walls, vehicles, machinery, etc.
The next biggest risk is being struck or crushed by an object or confined space. These accidents often involve falling equipment, motor vehicles, and high-pressure lines. Employers have an obligation to protect workers from such injuries by providing adequate hand, eye, and foot protection.
Explosions and fires
Gases, vapors, and hydrogen sulfide are released during extraction. Workers can be exposed to flammable materials by wells, trucks, production equipment, and surface equipment like tanks and shale shakers. Fires and explosions can be ignited by open flames, cigarettes, cutting and welding tools, hot surfaces, lighting, or friction.
Serious injuries and fatalities caused by falls are common in many industries, but the dangerous nature of oilfields means the risk that a fall can turn catastrophic is high. Safety equipment and training should be provided to workers on masts, drilling platforms, and other elevated equipment.
Many oil field jobs require workers to enter confined spaces like petroleum and other types of storage containers, mud pits, reserve pits, and other excavated areas around a wellhead. Safety hazards posed by confined spaces include ignition of flammable vapors or gases, asphyxiation, and exposure to toxic chemicals. Safety procedures for testing and entering these spaces should be enforced at job sites.
Over time, poor working conditions can lead to ergonomic injuries like muscle and tendon strains, sprains, and tears. These can be caused by overexertion due to lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, and working in awkward positions. Risk can be reduced by pre-planning work for optimal safety, using the right tools for the job, as well as reporting and taking seriously early signs of worker pain.
High-pressure lines and equipment
Burst lines and unsecured connections can cause high-pressure explosions and leaks that lead to illness and physical injuries.
Electric and other hazardous energy
Lockout or tagout procedures are important in oilfields. Failing to establish or follow such company rules puts workers at risk of uncontrolled electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, and other sources of hazardous energy. Proper equipment design, use, and maintenance can reduce such risks.
Large, heavy machinery is often in motion at an oilfield. Rotating equipment, like top drivers and Kelly drivers, drawworks, pumps, compressors, catheads, hoist blocks, belt wheels, and conveyors are common around wellheads. Machinery should be guarded to prevent employees from being struck or caught by equipment.
Failure to plan for and prevent safety hazards
Employers have a legal obligation to meet certain worker safety standards. When employers and/or workers fail to plan to prevent risks to worker health, the results can be dire as well as fatal. Injured workers and their families deserve compensation and justice.
We fight for injured Texas oilfield workers
If you were injured or a loved one died in an oilfield accident, it's important to get experienced legal representation to protect your rights.
At The Herrera Law Firm, we provide free case consultations and can help you weigh your legal options. Our San Antonio-based law firm has in-depth experience with cases involving injured oilfield workers, and if you were hurt, it would be our honor to fight for you.
Contact us today to schedule your free case consultation.