May 05, 2021
It’s no surprise that oilfield work can be very dangerous. Oilfield workers are constantly exposed to heavy machinery, heights, chemicals, moving vehicles, and many other hazards. They must often deal with bad weather conditions, including high winds, strong storms, freezing temperatures, and intense sunlight. Many of them work long, tiring hours–in some jobs, oilfield workers may work 7 to 14 days in a row before getting a day off, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows. They may be pressured by oil industry employers to do more work in less time. All of these things can lead to accidents that result in serious injuries and, sadly, fatalities. But because oilfield jobs often pay very well, many workers take the risk so they can provide a good income for their families.
The Numbers Don’t Lie in Highlighting Oilfield Dangers
There’s a saying that numbers don’t lie. In the case of oilfield work, the numbers clearly highlight the dangers of working in the oil industry. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and as reported in Occupational Health & Safety magazine online, the fatality rate for workers in the oil and gas industry is seven times higher than that of other industries. Fires, explosions, falls from rigs, tools that fall from heights and hit workers below, equipment malfunctions, transportation accidents, and other perils all contribute to oil worker injuries and deaths. Approximately 100 oil workers die on the job each year, according to BLS statistics. Thousands more are injured.
Texas Leads the Country in Oilfield Worker Accidents
As the country’s leading producer of oil, Texas also has the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in oilfield worker injuries and deaths. How many oilfield workers die each year in Texas? During one recent year, 44% of oil industry deaths happened in the Lone Star State. These numbers are not acceptable. But in an industry that is inherently dangerous already and where safety shortcuts may be taken by oil companies in order to speed up production, the statistics may not be surprising.
Five of the Most Hazardous Oilfield Jobs
There are many dangerous jobs at oilfields, but some are more hazardous than others. These are among the top most perilous jobs:
- Derrick operators – Derrick hands run mud pumps, maintain drilling equipment, and perform other critical tasks. In addition to operating dangerous heavy equipment, they often work at heights. This puts them at risk for falls if proper safety equipment and procedures are not in place.
- Roustabouts – Roustabouts, or roughnecks, help with a variety of things in oilfields. They operate drills, pumps, and other equipment that can malfunction and cause serious mishaps.
- Truck drivers – Driving accidents are a leading cause of death for oilfield workers. Semi truck drivers and other oil transportation workers on oilfields are expected to put in long hours, leading to fatigue and accidents.
- Drillers – Drillers run the drills that bore into drill holes. They also handle other oil rig equipment.
- Motormen – Motormen are responsible for working with and maintaining complex and potentially hazardous equipment, including engines.
Common Causes of Injuries and Fatalities
Following are some of the leading causes of injuries and deaths of oilfield workers:
- Falls from heights
- Burns from flammable chemicals
- Fires and explosions
- Inhalation of toxic substances
- Being struck by tools or other objects or being crushed between objects
- Equipment and machinery malfunctions
- Motor vehicle crashes going to and from rigs.
Types of Serious Injuries Oilfield Workers Can Sustain
The catastrophic injuries that can happen on oil rigs and in oil fields may leave people unable to work again. Here are some possible serious injuries in oilfield accidents:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord fractures
- Eye injuries
- Loss of limbs
- Soft tissue damage
- Organ damage
- Punctures and cuts
What Recourse Do Injured Oilfield Workers in Texas Have?
When you work in a dangerous industry, it’s important to know that you could get some financial help if you’re hurt on the job. Oilfield workers in Texas have a couple of options to potentially get help if they are injured at work. What options you may have depend upon your employer and whether they are a subscriber to workers’ compensation, and the individual circumstances of your accident have a bearing as well. Texas is the only state in the country that doesn’t require employers to carry workers’ comp.
Subscriber to Workers’ Compensation Insurance
If your company carries workers’ compensation insurance, you can file a claim to get medical coverage following your accident and injury. Workers’ comp also provides for partial wage replacement benefits. Generally, workers’ comp pays 70% of weekly wages. However, if your employer carries workers’ comp, you can’t sue your employer if you’re hurt on the job. You may be limited to what workers’ comp provides, unless a third party contributed to your accident through their negligence.
Non-Subscriber to Workers’ Comp
If your company doesn’t carry workers’ comp, they may carry other private insurance coverage that could help you with medical bills and possibly some wage replacement. Many companies don’t subscribe to workers’ comp, though, because they want to save money. For this reason, their insurance plans may not provide the necessary coverage needed to fully pay for serious oilfield injuries. Unlike companies that carry workers’ comp, non-subscriber companies leave themselves open to lawsuits if safety violations cause workers to be injured or killed.
Third-Party Legal Claims
In some cases, injured workers may be able to file third-party lawsuits against individuals or companies that contributed to accidents at jobsites. A third party could be a contractor, supplier, equipment manufacturer or other person or entity that was negligent. Even if you get workers’ comp through your employer, if a party who was not your direct employer caused a negligent accident, you could potentially get both workers’ comp and compensation from a third-party lawsuit. Third-party claims can be beneficial in the case of serious injuries, because you can ask for pain and suffering and other losses that you can’t get from workers’ compensation.
Damages You May Be Able to Get in a Legal Claim
Damages you might ask for in a legal claim include:
- Compensation for medical bills
- Reimbursement for lost wages
- Money for lost work capacity if you can’t work in the future
- Pain and suffering for physical pain and emotional trauma
- Punitive damages in cases of especially bad negligence.
What to Do If Your Loved One Has Died in an Oilfield Accident
If your family member has died in an oilfield accident while on the job, you may be able to get workers’ compensation death benefits. Spouses, dependent children and sometimes other dependent family members are eligible for benefits, depending on the situation. Death benefits are 75% of the deceased worker’s average weekly wage, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. You may also be able to get compensation for funeral and burial expenses.
In addition to or instead of workers’ comp benefits, depending on the situation, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to get compensation. In Texas, surviving spouses, children, and parents can sue for wrongful death when negligence contributed to the deadly accident. In a successful wrongful death claim, you could get compensation for:
- Medical treatment for the deceased before they died
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost earnings
- Lost inheritance
- Lost love, care, and support
- Pain and suffering
- Other damages.
What to Do If You’re In an Oilfield Accident
If you’re in an oilfield accident, there are several steps to take immediately following the accident. These steps are for your own health and well-being. They are also important in order to get workers’ comp insurance if your employer carries it and should the circumstances warrant a legal claim.
Following an accident:
1. Get medical help. Depending on your injuries, you may be taken to an emergency room. If your injuries are not as obvious, you should still see a doctor as soon as possible. Sometimes serious injuries don’t show up right away. It’s also important to see a doctor as evidence of your injuries for your insurance or legal claim.
2. Report the accident to your employer as soon as you are able. You may be asked to fill out a written accident report. Fill it out honestly and just as you remember the accident happening. Don’t take any blame for the accident. Let the investigation into how it happened run its course.
3. Gather names and contact information of eyewitnesses. Take photos of your injuries and the accident site, if you can. This evidence may help your case in a legal claim.
4. Keep a file with copies of all your medical records. You might also keep a regular journal of how your pain and injuries affect your daily activities.
Also, consider speaking with an attorney who handles workplace injuries. An experienced Texas lawyer can help ensure that you are not denied workers’ comp coverage if your employer carries it. They can also help if you work for a non-subscriber employer who doesn’t want to pay for your work injury treatment or in determining whether a third party might have contributed to your injury accident. You may be able to bring a legal claim. Typical things asked for in lawsuits include compensation for medical bills, time missed at work, pain and suffering, and more.
Contact an Experienced Houston Work Injury Lawyer/Law Firm for Help
Oilfield work can pay very well, which is why many people put up with its hazards. But if you are injured on an oilfield and lose your ability to work, that paycheck goes away. You will also have expensive medical bills to contend with. For this reason, it’s very important to learn about your compensation options from an experienced oilfield accident attorney. At the Waldman Legal Group, our skilled oilfield accident lawyers will answer all of your questions about applying for workers’ comp or making a claim through a non-subscriber’s private insurance. We can also help you determine possible liability for a third-party or other legal claim. Call us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation about your case at (713) 688-4878.