The oil industry is extremely important to the Texas economy. Unfortunately, these jobs can also be extremely dangerous. When it comes to serious and fatal injuries, the oil and gas industry is the most dangerous in the country. Because the production process encompasses everything from drilling to refining or processing to transporting the final product, along with storage and disposal of waste, having strict safety measures in place is critical. Even with these preventative measures, accidents still occur, often with fatal consequences. In fact, the fatality rate for oil and gas workers is seven times higher than that of any other industry, and oilfield work is one of the most dangerous professions. Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the fatality rate for this industry is approximately five times that of all other industries combined.
Texas Oil and Gas Industry Dangers
Unfortunately, Texas is no stranger to accidents in the oil and gas industry. While federal and state laws regulate the industry in order to ensure a safe environment, Texas oil and gas workers are faced with life-threatening dangers on a daily basis while performing their jobs and are injured all too often. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Texas has had the most oilfield fatalities, with nearly 40% of injuries ending in wrongful death.
Even with the proper training and safety equipment, oil industry accidents can happen at any moment. Some of the most common reasons for these accidents include:
- Outdated, defective, or improperly maintained equipment
- Lack of worker experience, training, and/or certification
- Lack of safety equipment or the failure to provide PPE and other safety violations
- Failure to follow industry regulations
- Transportation issues, especially when workers drive from one job-site to another
- Fires and pipeline explosions
- Dangerous contact with heavy machinery and other equipment
- Unsecured rigs
- Weather-related accidents
- Flammable materials
- Well blowouts
- Fracking accidents
Common Types of Oilfield Accidents
- Oil transportation accident – Oil is transported from place to place by vessels, trains, trucks, and more. Due to the volatile nature of oil and gas products, if one of these methods of transportation fails, such as with a crude oil train derailment or a workplace truck accident, the results can quickly turn deadly.
- Explosion and fire – Explosions are one of the most common oilfield accidents, and they are many times fatal. When they cause serious injuries, the accident victims often require lifetime medical care, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
- Chemical leak or release – Many of the substances used in refining oil and gas products contain dangerous chemicals. If those chemicals are not stored properly, it can lead to acid or chemical burns.
- Pipeline rupture – When a pipeline ruptures, thousands of barrels of oil may be released directly into the area where the rupture occurred. When a gas line ruptures, the risk of fire only increases. The injuries from pipeline explosions can be catastrophic.
- Gas leak – There are three grades of gas leaks: grade 1 leaks require immediate action; grade 2 leaks are non-hazardous but they should be repaired as soon as possible; and grade 3 leaks are the least troublesome. Regardless of the rating, any gas leak can cause symptoms in workers exposed to the toxic fumes.
- Oil spill – Oil spills can have extreme health, economic, and environmental effects, and can impact employees, residents, and businesses in the nearby area – sometimes for years or decades after the initial spill.
- Crane failure – Cranes are a common sight along the Gulf Coast, where they are used everyday in oilfields, refineries, and elsewhere. These huge pieces of machinery injure and kill Texas workers every year.
- Fracking accidents – Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has produced billions of dollars in revenue for Texas oil companies. But fracking, which involves the high-pressure injection of water or a fluid mixture into a borehole to create cracks in deep-rock formations through which gas or petroleum can flow, is inherently dangerous for those performing the task.
- Defective equipment – The oil and gas industry requires the use of heavy machinery and complex equipment. In order for this equipment to perform at its best, routine maintenance is required to ensure its quality and safety. Any instance of defective, damaged, or otherwise sub-standard performing equipment can have deadly consequences for those operating the machines.
What are the Most Common Injuries Occurring on Texas Oilfields?
Oilfield injuries and even deaths are not uncommon. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas accounts for 40% of all oil field related fatalities in the country. Oilfield workers have some of the most dangerous and stressful jobs in the United States. The potential hazards an oilfield worker faces during the course of a routine day on the job are significant. Some of the top injuries affecting oilfield workers include:
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Burn injuries
- Crush injuries
- Head injuries
- Limb injuries
- Neck injuries
- Skin injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Toxic exposure
- Traumatic brain injuries
In addition to physical injuries, the responsible parties for your workplace accident may also be liable to pay your medical expenses, for your pain and suffering, your rehabilitation costs, for your lost wages and any loss of future earning capacity, and more.
Steps to Take After an Oilfield Injury Accident
While an oilfield worker may be incapacitated or too seriously injured to take any of these steps immediately following an oilfield accident, the following steps must still be taken by the worker or a loved one shortly thereafter:
- Notify your employer about the incident and ensure an official accident report is written and filed
- Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries; but, if you are required to see the “company doctor,” you may want to get a second opinion from your own physician
- Keep all medical appointments and adhere to your providers’ instructions
- Document the accident scene or have a coworker do it for you, including taking photos and videos, talking to witnesses, and journaling or voice recording relevant details and information as soon as possible so things are not forgotten
- Don’t trust your employer, an insurance company, or any other business involved on your job site to “make things right” for you and your family
- Get help from an experienced oilfield accident attorney
Texas Oil Well Blowout Kills One Worker and Injures Three More
On the afternoon of Wednesday, January 29th, a fatal Texas oil well blowout occurred at the Chesapeake Energy worksite off of County Road 127 near Deanville, Texas, about 75 miles east of Austin. Workover operations were underway at the time. While the cause of the blast is still unknown, the unexpected accident tragically killed an on site contract worker and led to severe injuries for three other workers, who were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Houston and Austin shortly after the incident.
The reason for the blowout is under investigation by representatives from Chesapeake Energy as well as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), which claim the investigation could take up to six months. After nearly 24 hours, the fire was eventually extinguished on Thursday afternoon. Company emergency response personnel and outside well control specialists continue to work to secure the well. Though the Texas Department of Public Safety did not order an evacuation, many Burleson County community members are left uneasy about the incident and the potential dangers that come with living near the energy site.
Post accident investigation is crucial in determining the cause of oilfield accidents, so that the industry can better prepare for the future.
Texas Oilfield Accidents
Oilfield accidents cause debilitating injuries that threaten the financial stability of Texas families. As fellow Texans and as attorneys who have handled many oilfield accident cases, we understand the dangers energy workers face. Our Houston, Texas oilfield accident attorneys understand how oil and gas companies work and operate, and our successful track record and resources allow us to thoroughly investigate how your occupational accident occurred. We also help you hold these companies accountable for their reckless behavior, fighting against the wrongs that caused your injuries and ensuring that accidents like yours won’t happen again and harm or kill other oil and gas workers.
If you or someone you know needs legal counsel after an oilfield injury, Dax. F. Garza, P.C. offers free consultations, so contact us online for more information about how we can help you. To help our clients get the legal counsel they need without having to worry about upfront costs, our law firm works on a contingency fee basis. This means we only get paid when we successfully obtain financial compensation for you. If we don’t win, you don’t owe us anything at all.