by Frank E. Lamothe, III
For most oilfield workers in Louisiana, Texas, and other oil-producing states, times are good. A boom in American fossil fuel exports has turbocharged hiring in the drilling and extraction industries, with thousands of new jobs putting big paychecks into the pockets of toolpushers, drillers, derrick hands, motormen, lead-hands, and others. But every cloud with a silver lining has a dark side, and for oilfield workers, that dark side is a dramatic increase in the number of oilfield accidents, injuries, and deaths.
A December 2018 article in Insurance Journal provides an in-depth and alarming report about how the growth of the oil and gas industry over the last decade has led to more and more health and safety violations, which put workers at immediate risk of death.
Thousands of Violations Likely to Lead to “Death or Serious Physical Harm”
As of October 2018, companies involved in oil and gas extraction employed 170,600 derrick operators, rotary drill operators, and other workers — 50,000 more positions than there were ten years earlier.
During that same time, from 2008 through October 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited extraction industry employers for 10,873 violations. OSHA classified 64 percent of those violations as “serious,” meaning that inspectors found dangers likely to result in “death or serious physical harm.” Another three percent were classified as “repeated” or “willful,” indicating that the employer had either a “purposeful disregard” for the law or “plain indifference to employee safety.”
These violations, along with many more acts of negligence that went unreported or cited, contributed to the deaths of 1,566 workers from oilfield injuries between 2008 and 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the Insurance Journal article notes, that is almost the same number as American troops killed in Afghanistan during the same period.
Employers Have a Duty to Keep Things as Safe as Possible
Whether in boom times or bust, oil and gas extraction is inherently dangerous, with the risk of injury or death far exceeding other industries. In fact, according to government statistics, oilfield workers have a fatality rate almost five times higher than that of all other American industries combined. It isn’t hard to understand why; working in brutal heat and cold on unstable platforms and derricks surrounded by toxic chemicals, combustible materials, and heavy equipment creates an environment with an abundance of life-threatening risks.
In boom times, the pressure to produce greater quantities of oil and gas as quickly as possible can lead to a temptation to cut corners when it comes to worker safety. When that happens, hard-working men and women get hurt and families lose loved ones in the prime of their lives.
The Lamothe Law Firm: Protecting Oilfield Workers and Their Families
The Lamothe Law Firm represents oil field workers who suffer serious injuries while performing their duties. There is no room for negligence at an oil and gas drilling site. As the statistics make clear, even a single safety lapse can result in devastating injury or death.
If you suffered an oilfield injury or lost a loved one in an oilfield accident, please call Lamothe Law firm today at 504-321-7747 to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney about your case and get the full compensation you deserve.