For years, a thorough review of available data and statistics from a number of sources show that fatal work injuries or fatalities within the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry are among the highest of any workplace occupation or profession, with the offshore death portion accounting for 128 fatalities between 2003 and 2010. Fast forward to April 26, 2013, just 3 years after the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) concluded their pivotal and groundbreaking tracking of these fatal work injuries and fatalities, and the CDC released their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This report gave a grim and revealing insight into the bitter realities of the United States’ oil and gas extraction industry.
What the CDC found was utterly shocking. For every 100,000 workers, the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry realized 23.3 more deaths, with that number being the difference between the 27.1 fatalities experienced in that industry versus the 3.8 fatalities experienced in other U.S. industries during that time period. While this number does account for both onshore and offshore deaths related to drilling activities and operations, the 128 fatalities that occurred between 2003 and 2013 also gives a staggering and compelling view into specific and unique workplace safety issues, considerations and concerns faced by workers, especially when drilling and rigging operations shift to being off-land.
Although the data and statistics do show a fluctuation in these common causes of fatalities year-after-year, the following workplace safety issues, related to an offshore death, have consistently been the most common:
- Transportation incidents or events — According to the CDC’s 2003 to 2010 study into fatalities in the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry, just over half of the fatalities (65 of the 128, or 51%) were related to various transportation events or incidents. In a profession that has continual demands placed on it for the movement of everything from material and equipment to personnel, these transportation events and incidents are far-reaching and take into consideration a range of factors, including poor weather conditions and mode of transport, such as aircraft like helicopters.
- Performing tasks that are dangerous — The tasks required to be conducted by workers in the oilfield industry are many, and unfortunately, no matter how many safety precautions are taken to mitigate the risk, there is and will always be some form of risk present that may ultimately lead to an offshore death. More specifically, contact with objects or equipment was the second leading cause of fatalities (21 of the 128, or 16%), as identified by the CDC’s study, just behind transportation.
- Working shifts that are long, and physically and mentally demanding — In order to maximize output and yield, much is expected from workers within the industry. Besides being physically and mentally demanding, the hours expected to be worked are also generally long. During that time, these workers are expected to operate large unforgiving machinery, while also handling the most hazardous of materials. In fact, according to the CDC study, exposure to harmful substances and environments accounted for the fourth leading cause of fatalities off-land in the oil and gas industry (16 of the 128, or 13%).
HOW CAN A LAWYER HELP THE VICTIM’S FAMILY IN AN OFFSHORE DEATH CASE?
If you have lost a loved one in the oilfield industry, you may want to consider speaking with a firm that brings a combination of the following things to the table:
- Board certification
- A very skilled and experienced team
- A strong, positive, desire to give back to the community
- A bonafide, verifiable, track record of successfully fighting for victims’ rights and achieving the results they deserve
Fortunately, family members of the deceased workers have options, and an experienced lawyer can help determine what those options are, and the best course of action.