The crude oil, natural gas, and chemicals industry employs about 1.5 million people in the United States. About 200,000 of those employees work in oil and gas extraction, a field that pays well but can also pose some inherent risks for those in it. As an oilfield worker or any employee of an oil and gas company, you should know what to expect, what rights you have, and what to do if you have concerns about your safety.
As of February 2022, there were 650 active oil and gas rigs in operation in the United States. The majority of these are found in the Permian Basin, which is located in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico and has been a primary harvesting ground for crude oil since the early 1920s. It is the most productive oil basin in the country. Other primary shale plays include the Eagle Ford in southern Texas, the Marcellus in the Appalachian Basin, and Niobrara in South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
Land rig workers have tough jobs. Physically demanding, often outdoors, and involving heavy machinery and highly volatile materials, this type of work is not for the faint of heart. With America’s reliance on crude oil and natural gas products, however, there is no room for lost production. There is no room for error. In spite of inherent risks and challenges, oil and gas workers have rights and expectations that should be fulfilled by their employers.
1. Your Employer Is Responsible for Providing a Safe Work Environment
The oil and gas extraction industry may be known as hazardous, but this does not excuse workplace injuries. According to OSHA, “Employers must protect the safety and health of workers involved in oil and gas operations” in accordance with OSHA general industry and construction standards. These apply to personal protective equipment (PPE), working from heights, ladder safety, machinery operation, and a long list of other areas, all aimed at “identifying, preventing, and controlling exposure to hazards.”
Oil companies are responsible for hiring qualified workers, training new workers, implementing OSHA standards, and enforcing policies that put safety first. This is the only way to prevent serious incidents like vehicle accidents, explosions, fires, falls, chemical exposures, and other disasters that claim oilfield workers’ lives.
2. You Have the Right to Fair Pay & Overtime
Land rig workers are also entitled to fair pay and overtime. Oil and gas companies must properly classify workers as employees or independent contractors and must pay them accordingly, including overtime wages as needed. Worker misclassification, failing to pay fair wages, and not paying overtime are examples of conduct that is not only illegal but that may provide grounds for a worker to take legal action against an employer to recoup their losses.
3. You Are Protected Against Discrimination & Wrongful Termination
Oil and gas workers are protected against discrimination or harassment based on age, gender, religious beliefs, gender, political affiliations, marital status, and more. Oil and gas companies cannot fire, demote, or retaliate against workers for reporting safety violations, for filing a claim for benefits after a work injury, or for reporting discrimination or harassment.
4. You Have the Right to Heal & Recover Before Returning to Work
When oilfield workers are injured on the job, they have the right to heal before returning to work. They should not be pressured by their employers to return to the job before they’re ready, but this is, unfortunately, a common practice in this industry. Some employers may seem understanding at first but then may give workers an ultimatum: return to work or you won’t have a job. We experienced this when we represented dozens of workers after the Williams Olefins plant explosion that claimed 2 lives and injured 167 workers in Geismar, Louisiana on June 13, 2013. Williams turned their back on their workers, but our attorneys fought for recoveries that would ensure our clients and their families were taken care of.
If you have been injured in an oilfield accident or in any capacity as an oil and gas worker, you need to remember that you have the right to heal. You have the right to recover from the physical and mental trauma that you’ve experienced.
Working for a Top Drilling Rig Company: Is It Worth It?
If you already work in the oil and gas industry or are considering securing a job in one of America’s oilfields, you might wonder whether it’s worth it. Most workers will agree that the job might be tough, but it’s rewarding and exciting. Depending on your skills and background, you may be able to find a job that pays well and brings you the job fulfillment you're looking for.
There are numerous drilling rig companies in the United States. Nabors Industries Ltd. operates the largest fleet of land rigs on the planet, with 500 rigs in over 25 countries. Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. has land operations across the U.S. and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Precision Drilling Corporation has more than 240 land rigs in operation worldwide, and Pioneer Energy Services Corp. has more than 24 rigs in the United States and Columbia. These five companies dominate the market, but other key players include Parker Drilling, Unit Corp., Independence Contract Drilling, Seventy Seven Energy, Schramm, and Ensign Drilling.
Whether you work for one of the top producers or for a smaller drilling company, your safety should come first. This is true for a derrick hand who has only been on the job for a month, all the way to a seasoned roustabout who has been working in the fields for decades. You have the right to expect that your employer will give you the tools and training you need to do your job and to do it well.
Helping Land Rig Workers in Texas & Nationwide
Headquartered in Texas, where most of the nation’s land rigs operate, Arnold & Itkin has been fighting for oil and gas workers across the country since 2004. We have helped workers and families after the worst well blowouts, pipeline explosions, land rig explosions, and other catastrophes that have earned oilfield work its reputation as one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Every case we handle is another step forward in protecting workers’ rights and improving conditions for future generations. To learn more about our firm and the ways we can help you, give us a call at (888) 493-1629.