Promoting Safety on Oil Rigs
What Safety Measures Are in Place to Prevent an Oil Rig Explosion?
It is no secret that working on an oil rig carries a risk of injury or harm. With giant mechanisms working together to keep the massive rig afloat and drilling beneath the ocean floor, there's a lot that could go wrong and cause a disaster. The hazard of a potential oil rig explosion is among the most serious threats, but there are a number of safety measures in place to minimize the risk of an explosion and the resulting damage if one should occur. Mechanically, there are many items installed on oil rigs to prevent an explosion due to pressure and other factors. For instance, blowout preventers are installed redundantly, with many in place as backups, to handle fluctuations in pressure aboard a rig. However, there are many measures that employees, supervisors and other crew members can use to reduce the risk of an explosion at sea.
Factors That Can Increase Safety on a Rig
- Ensuring that an adequate number of crew members are on board
- Providing fire extinguishers
- Providing adequate safety gear, such as life jackets and rafts
- Providing a detailed emergency plan and training crew members in its implementation
- Frequent, thorough inspections to ensure that all mechanism and equipment are functioning properly
Ensuring that all machines and safety equipment have been maintained properly is imperative in preventing accidents. Even a small mechanical failure aboard a rig can cause a disaster, from a malfunctioning pressure gauge to a loose bolt. Salty seawater and repetitive motion can quickly degrade many items, and thoroughly inspecting all machines and gear can catch a potential issue before it compounds into a major problem.
Using Equipment & Training to Prevent Explosions
Safety equipment can greatly minimize the harm that results from an explosion at sea to both workers and the rig. Providing numerous fire extinguishers and training workers in their use can quickly stifle any small fires that may arise on board. Training also plays a key role in both preventing accidents and responding to them. Workers must know how to operate machinery safely, how to tell if there is a problem, and how to react in the face of an emergency. Evacuation protocols, lines of communication, and other response techniques can mean the difference between panic onboard and an organized effort to reduce damages. Taking shortcuts or neglecting any of these steps in promoting safe practices can jeopardize the entire rig. Any unsafe practices or willful neglect of necessary measures may lead to liability in the case of an explosion.
The Strangest Challenges to Oil Rig Safety: Cell Phones
It’s not taken seriously as much, but it wasn’t long ago that safety experts urged people to avoid using their cell phones while pumping gas. The reasoning went that the phone parts, either the batteries or the electronics, could spark and ignite the gas fumes. However, the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) has not documented any incidents where a gas explosion was ever caused by a cell phone. At the same time, the amount of fumes at a gas station aren’t altogether that high. Could the risk of fire be higher on an oil rig?
According to Shawn Liddle, a technology consultant for fire safety systems designed for oil rigs, cell phones are the next frontier of oil rig safety issues. He thinks more workers are bringing phones with them to processing centers due to increased WiFi capabilities on oil rigs.
He notes that “mobile phones are not intrinsically rated,” citing the possibility of causing a spark if a phone is dropped. Though PEI might argue the case, the fact is that oil rig processing centers are far more likely to have volatile fumes at higher volumes. A spark that would be harmless at a gas station might prove deadly on an oil rig. Shawn Liddle also notes that, in his opinion, spark potential, in general, is the greatest fire risk on an oil rig. Loose live wires and open electrical boxes could provide a potential ignition source for the fumes and gases, creating an incredible risk.
The Other Challenge to Rig Safety? Lack of Beds.
Shawn Liddle also mentions an industry-wide problem with lack of bedding. As a rig fire expert, Liddle travels from rig to rig inspecting and providing solutions to improve worker safety. However, the one thing keeping rigs from receiving such inspections are the lack of space for the technicians to sleep. Between increased demand for both output and renovations, rig managers will choose output.
Talk to an Attorney If You Have Been Seriously Injured: (888) 493-1629
This decade marks an era where safety regulators have recognized the prevalence of aging oil rig equipment. If the lack of bedding and basic cell phone safety are all that’s required to ensure rig workers’ safety for years to come, then companies need to take immediate steps to fix these relatively simple problems. A related issue is the rise of smaller companies purchasing used rigs and drilling parts. As more companies begin buying up used equipment, companies need to ensure that refurbished equipment still meets safety standards. If you have been injured in an oil rig explosion that was caused by a neglect of the established safety measures, you may be able to seek out compensation. The attorneys of Arnold & Itkin have helped hundreds of oil rig workers hold the liable party responsible for neglecting to hold their safety as the highest priority.
Contact Arnold & Itkin LLP today for a free consultation by calling us at (888) 493-1629.
Oil Rig Explosion FAQ
Who Is at Fault for an Oil Rig Accident?
While many companies try to shift the blame to workers, they’re ultimately the ones at fault for an oil rig accident. Companies are obligated to ensure that workers are trained, equipped, and qualified to do their job safely. They’re also responsible with maintaining equipment and making sure it can be used by employees safely.
Should I See My Company’s Doctor After an Accident?
No. Often, company doctors will work in the interest of their employer. It’s always best to insist on seeing a private doctor and saying as little as possible to a doctor that works for your employer. Remember: you are not obligated to speak to anyone or sign any releases after an oil rig accident.
What Can I Recover After an Oil Rig Accident?
Offshore oil rig workers are protected by a law known as the Jones Act. This important law allows offshore workers to seek compensation from negligent employers. Monetary losses an oil rig worker can seek include medical bills, time lost at work, the cost of future care, and any pain and suffering caused by the accident.