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Why Oil Rig and Gas Work are the Most Dangerous Jobs
The oil and gas extraction industry can be a lucrative business, with the promise of hefty salaries, luring hundreds of thousands of workers to the fields every year. This is especially true in recent years; despite regular boom and bust phases, the industry has rebounded heartily since the oil price crash in 2014.
Behind the scenes of such booming growth and the promise of record profits, however, is difficult and dangerous work. Ever-higher quotas, productivity and profits sacrifice caution over employee safety and proper head protection.
Common oil rig injuries, such as those caused when a worker is struck by an object, falls off equipment or is caught in machinery on the job, are often due to three factors: the fast-paced nature of the oil extracting business, inadequately trained workers and a lack of proper safeguards. When these elements combine, they can create the perfect conditions for accidents with often tragic consequences.
Severe injuries suffered by oil rig workers in catastrophic accidents include:
- Brain damage
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Head trauma
- Severe lacerations burns
- Chemical burns
- Severely fractured or broken bones
- Neck and back injuries
- Loss of limbs, due to amputation
- Various injuries from being crushed
- Toxic inhalation from flumes
- Chemical poisoning
- Spinal cord paralysis
- Chronic illnesses
- Wrongful death
- And more
Related Article: Oil Rig Accident Fatalities
Worst Offshore Oil Rig Accidents
Seven of the worst disasters on offshore oil rigs in recent history include:
1. Piper Alpha
The North Sea disaster on Piper Alpha remains the worst oil rig disaster ever, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The tragic event claimed the lives of 167 oil rig workers on 6 July 1988.
A communication error regarding safety control devices resulted in a hydrogen sulfide gas leakage which triggered multiple oil rig explosions on the platform. Of the 226 oil rig workers, only 61 survived. The resulting fire from this tragedy took close to three weeks to control.
Not only is Piper Alpha classed as the biggest oil disaster, but it is also one of the costliest man-made gas accidents in history — the total insured loss was around $1.4 billion. Of this amount, approximately $200 million was spent compensating the families of the oil rig explosion victims, according to the workers compensation system.
Related Article: Common Causes of Offshore Oil Rig Explosions
2. Alexander L. Kielland
Alexander L. Kielland was a semi-submersible oil rig platform in the North Sea. On March 17, 1980, high winds were causing waves up to 12m high. These many safety hazards caused a bracing attached to one of the legs to fail.
This caused a succession of structural failures, resulting in the platform tilting 30⁰ and eventually capsizing. Of the 212 workers on board, only 89 survived. Most of the fatalities were due to drowning, falling object strikes, and highly combustible toxic chemicals including airborne silica.
After the tragedy, investigations took place into the safety procedures on the rig. They found that there were hazardous materials including diesel particulate matter and an existing, but undetected crack on one of the leg bracings.
These investigations were closed to the public, and there are still families of the lost looking for answers as to why safety precautions were not followed.
3. Deepwater Horizon
The death toll from the Deepwater Horizon incident is low in comparison to other oil rig disasters, with 11 fatalities. However, this event was no less tragic. The explosion from defective equipment caused the biggest oil spill in US history — 4 million barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.
Of the 126 oilfield workers onboard Deepwater Horizon on 20 April 2010, many were injured by the initial explosion which was caused by a burst of natural gas through the well’s core.
The spill lasted almost 3 months, costing BP an estimated $65 billion in heavy machinery to clean up. Families of the injured and dead filed at least 50 wrongful death or personal injury cases against the oil companies.
4. Bohai 2
In November 1979, the Bohai 2 jack-up rig capsized off the coast of China in the Bohai Gulf. Tragically, this accident led to the death of 72 of 76 workers onboard.
While the rig was being towed with operating heavy machinery between China and Korea, a storm with force 10 winds caused waves to crash over the main deck. These waves inflicted significant damage to the deck and safety equipment, causing flooding of the rig. This, alongside the relentless storm, capsized the rig.
Due to insufficient training using properly maintained respiratory protection and two-handed controls, the majority of the crew members perished.
5. Mumbai High North
When the Mumbai High North oil rig collided with a support vessel on July 27, 2005, a fire broke out resulting in an oil rig accident which killed 22 people. The chain of events started when a cook on the support vessel cut the tips off two of his fingers and another body part due to a lack of protective shields.
An inland monsoon meant that helicopters were grounded, therefore the injured cook was transported via crane lift to receive treatment. Strong swells in the water pushed the support vessel toward the platform and the resulting collision caused the fire to break out.
Alongside the tragic oil rig injuries and deaths, there was a significant oil spill and gas leakage which caused damaging production loss to the area.
6. DS Seacrest
Huge 40ft waves brought on by Typhoon Gay sunk the DS Seacrest. The powerful cyclone caused 800 deaths around the Gulf of Thailand, over 10% of which were workers on crude oil rig jobs.
Of the 97 crew members, rescuers only saved 6. According to reports, the vessel was reported missing on November 4, 1989, and it wasn’t until the next day that it was discovered.
Four of the surviving oilfield workers sued the oil industry over a lack of safety procedures and physical therapy. They likely employed the help of a maritime injury lawyer, but unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the oil rig injuries lawsuit was declared invalid due to the ship being in satisfactory condition and operating within its design limits.
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7. Ocean Ranger
Ocean Ranger was a common oil drilling rig that was operating in Canadian waters when it sank, tragically killing every single one of the 84 crew members on board.
The semi-submersible platform was drilling a well on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland when it was hit by a storm with waves reaching up to 65ft in height. One of these waves broke a portside window, causing water damage in the ballast control room.
This damage meant that the ballast control system malfunctioned, resulting in the balance of the rig being incorrect. This, in turn, caused more water to flood the rig and by the next morning, the whole platform was underwater.
Lawsuits against gas industries raised by families of the lost totaled $20 million.
Get a Free Offshore Oil Rig Injury Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers
The law firm of Schmidt & Clark, LLP, is dedicated to protecting the rights of oil rig explosion victims and is one of the only firms willing to handle oil industry litigation throughout the entire United States.
Again, if you or a loved one is an oil rig worker that has been seriously injured or killed in an oil field accident, you should contact our oil field accident lawyers immediately by using the form below or calling our law firm toll-free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600 for a free case evaluation and legal representation.
You may be able to recover compensation for lost wages in a personal injury lawsuit and our oil field injury lawyers can help.