What Are Common Oilfield Accidents and Causes Of Work Injuries

Oilfield accidents, while extensively documented, are typically underreported because even a small number of worker injuries can have an impact on the company’s safety record. Even with significant underreporting, the petroleum industry is one of the most dangerous in the world, with a high number of worker fatalities and injuries compared to most other occupations.  This is because petroleum industry workers have to contend with a variety of workplace dangers on a daily basis.  For example, in 2010, a drilling supervisor was killed after being attacked by a black bear.  In 2011, a pipe-fitter died from asbestosis caused by asbestos he was exposed to while on duty.

What are the most common oilfield accidents?

Between 2003 and 2007, there were about 4,000 nonfatal injuries and illnesses each year due to workplace conditions.  Most of these were caused by falls, both from elevated heights and level ground. Falls were a major problem for both onshore and offshore workers, and accounted for nearly 30 percent of all injuries in the industry.  Vehicle accidents were also a primary source of onshore injuries, most of them occurring during transport between facilities.

Onshore and offshore workers both have to worry about being struck by an object, as this accounted for almost one quarter of all incidents between 2003 and 2007.  This is a common problem at drilling sites and on the platform where heavy objects are frequently moved by cranes.

Overexertion is another common problem, being linked to about 20 percent of all injuries between 2003 and 2007.

What injuries can oilfield accidents cause?

The severity of workplace injuries depends on the cause of the incident, though even seemingly minor incidents can result in permanent injury.  Overexertion, while common, is usually not severe, but it can cause lasting pain, particularly in the back, shoulder, or neck.  Unfortunately, overexertion injuries are underreported, and many companies do little to prevent them.  Frequent shift changes and regular medical attention can help prevent them, but this requires a concerted effort by the company to avoid overexertion injuries.

Falling or being struck by an object can cause a variety of injuries.  Some of the most common injuries include multiple broken bones, paralysis, or traumatic brain injuries.  Spinal cord and brain injuries are particularly troublesome as they often result in permanent complications, often affecting the victim’s ability to work.  Brain and spine injuries can result in paralysis, cognitive dysfunction, motor or speech disorders, or a number of other problems.

When should an injured worker seek legal representation?

Most workplace injuries are preventable, whether they occur on or off shore.  Oilfield companies are responsible for maintaining proper safety protocols and providing hazard protection for their employees.  Fall protection like guardrails or nets must be present at all job sites if falls are a possibility.  This is especially true on offshore platforms.

If these safety measures aren’t present, then the company may be liable if a worker is harmed while on the job. Petroleum workers hurt while on the job should consider contacting a personal injury attorney. Consulting with an experienced lawyer can help a victim make an informed decision about their options for filing suit, and possibly being compensated for the injuries sustained.