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 an Oil 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 equipment is 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.
Violation of Oil Rig Safety Regulations: Learn from Our Top-Rated Firm
Has the cause of your oil rig explosion been determined? If your employers are still investigating the accident, ruling out potential culprits that may have caused your injuries, then you need an attorney who can do the same. After an offshore tragedy strikes, employers will waste no time in securing top-level attorneys to protect their interests against (well-deserved) lawsuits. As the victim of the oil rig explosion, you need to do the same. When it comes to your personal health and security, there is no stronger advocate than a personal injury attorney.
Learn about how safety violations play a part in oil rig accidents, and how our firm has fought for compensation and safer workplaces on behalf of injured clients.
The Importance of Adhering to Oil Rig Safety Regulations
Oil rig workers face a variety of hazardous conditions daily, which is evident in the number of accidents that have taken place in the last several years. There are more than 4,000 oil rig platforms in the Gulf of Mexico alone—25% of which are physically manned by workers. Therefore, there are a significant number of people along the southern coast that are employed in this field. However, because of the constant work that needs to be done to maintain these rigs, there is a good chance that a worker may be faced with an injury at some point or another. A straightforward misstep could have catastrophic results, so it is crucial that the proper safety regulations be implemented and followed at all times.
Although human error cannot be blamed for every accident on offshore rigs, it can be attributed to an astounding number of the 1,400 accidents from 2001 to 2007—not to mention the various others that have happened in recent years.
All offshore workers maintain rights under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly referred to as the Jones Act. This is a “United States federal statute that regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports.” It allows for all offshore seaman to make claims and collect from their employers for the negligence of a supervising authority or a fellow worker. This means that if an employer fails to adhere to the safety regulations that have been put in place and a worker is subsequently injured, they may be subjected to a civil lawsuit.
Often, an oil rig worker will be unable to return to their job in the wake of a severe injury, so they may have no other choice but to pursue an appropriate amount of compensation from the responsible party. Whether they were burned in an explosion or crushed by an unsecured object, a victim may be able to pursue damages that workers' compensation benefits will not provide. For this reason, if you have found yourself in a similar situation, you should not hesitate to explore your legal options with the help of a lawyer.
Types of Oil Rig Safety Regulations
Because of the enormous risks that an oil rig worker faces on a day-to-day basis, it is essential for everyone in the field to understand what safety regulations must be implemented and followed. Although most employees across the country are subjected to the regulations of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it is a little different when working offshore. Seamen that are working on oil rigs must instead abide by the regulations that have been set out by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
These standards were developed to protect workers that are susceptible to a whole new set of hazards when working out on the water, including regulations such as the following:
- Maintenance must be done regularly on all equipment to ensure proper working conditions
- Workers must receive training on how to implement appropriate safety techniques
- Oil rig owners must provide free medical care to all employees
- Equipment should be stored in a secure area that does not pose a risk of falling
- Weekly "musters," emergency exercises, should be carried out to prepare for real-life accidents
- Workers must have access to the General Platform Alarm (GPA) and/or emergency contact numbers
One of 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 spark potential is generally 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.
Legal Claims of Safety Violations & Unseaworthiness
The top priority for employers of maritime employers should be the safety of employees. Unfortunately, much more often, the top priority of high-level executives becomes the profits. As a result, unsafe practices and non-standardized operations take shape to cut costs and increase output.
The results of these types of safety violations often include:
- Fires and explosions
- Wrongful death
When preventable injuries occur, the affected can file claims of unseaworthiness to uncover unlawful practices. Claims of unseaworthiness are responses to the unsafe conditions that arise as a result of a company's decision to violate the standardized safety practices of the industry. Numerous unsafe conditions can exist aboard an oil platform, and all of these are situations can be avoided under the proper safety regulations.
To make a claim of unseaworthiness, one or more of the following conditions must be proven:
- Lack of guards or safety rails on oil rig equipment
- Continued use of malfunctioning or poorly-maintained equipment
- Lack of necessary safety equipment such as life jackets and life rafts
- Inadequate number of crew members
- Lack of fire extinguishers or other means of fire suppression
This list is only a small sample of the many violations that can occur. After an explosion, fire, or accident of any nature, it is crucial to seek the legal help of a lawyer who can help you hold your employer responsible. Violating the safety regulations of offshore work endangers hundreds of lives, and employers deserve to be held liable for their negligence. At Arnold & Itkin, we are the ones who keep employers accountable.
Bringing Violations of Safety Regulations to Court
The violation of even one of the industry's safety regulations could dramatically alter the course of an oil rig's production. Take the Deepwater Horizon explosion, for example. British Petroleum execs opted for the use of cheaper, outdated equipment to cut the costs invested in their project. Cost-cutting led to tragedy. Also, the executives were found in violation of other industry safety standards, including overworking some of the same employees who were injured or killed in the disaster. After the oil spill, BP immediately took action. Not action to protect the injured workers and grieving families who had suffered. Instead, they made efforts to protect the company itself from allegations claiming that BP might have engaged in unsafe practices that were in direct violation of the industry's standardized safety regulations.
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 top-rated 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.
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
WHAT’S BEHIND SAFETY VIOLATIONS ON OFFSHORE RIGS?
Every situation will be different, but safety violations may stem from efforts by oil companies to minimize costs and boost profits by avoiding costly repairs and shutdowns to replace worn or aging systems, parts, and equipment. Back in 2010, the U.S. Inspector General published a report that attributed a lack of proper safety measures on offshore rights to “self-regulation” and “corruption”—where workers could fill out their own safety inspection reports. Safety must come first on offshore rigs. No matter what’s behind a single violation or general lack of care, responsible parties must be brought to justice.
WHY IS A SAFETY-FIRST MINDSET ESSENTIAL ON AN OFFSHORE RIG?
Offshore workers face countless dangers. Every person on an offshore rig, as well as managers and company executives, must have a safety-first mindset to protect workers’ well-being. A single safety violation, no matter how minor, can cause a catastrophe of epic proportions, leading to worker injury or death and damage to the environment. Proper implementation of safety standards will lower the risk of incidents like rig fires, explosions, falls, injuries caused by falling objects, and heavy machinery injuries.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS OFFSHORE WORKERS CAN PROTECT THEMSELVES?
If you’re an offshore worker, your employer has a responsibility to follow safety protocol, and they can be held responsible for any failures to do so. But, you can also take a few steps to protect yourself.
If you’re working on an offshore rig:
- Always wear your fall protection equipment when working from any height. Test it before use to make sure it’s working properly.
- Keep an eye out for falling or flying objects. Never stand under a suspended load and always wear a hard hat and other protective gear.
- Adhere to all policies related to fire prevention and wear flame-resistant clothing.
- You may be required to work long hours, but if you ever feel too tired to function properly, inform your supervisor. The same applies to heat exhaustion. Taking a break is more important than falling asleep or getting heat stroke on the job.
- Follow the rules! Closely follow all safety regulations. If you notice a violation, report it immediately.
Learn How Our Leading Trial Attorneys Can Help
Time and again, investigations into the cause of maritime disasters such as Deepwater Horizon prove that negligence at an executive level was the cause. With a lawyer from Arnold & Itkin on your side, you can know that our investigation will not overlook vital evidence that could hold your employers responsible for the incident. When the BP oil spill struck in 2010, our lawyers were there to represent the victims of the accident, and we can do so again for you. Since our firm's inception, we have secured billions of dollars in compensation for the clients we have represented in court. As advocates for injured workers, we readily take on complex, challenging cases.
If you have been involved in a preventable accident while working on an offshore oil rig, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced lawyer about what rights you possess under the Jones Act and that you find out what protections maritime law affords you. You may be able to pursue compensation through a civil lawsuit, so you should not disregard the need to take action quickly. At Arnold & Itkin, we have been successful in helping countless victims, and their families, to recover the just compensation that they truly deserved.
Contact Arnold & Itkin LLP today for a free consultation by calling us at (888) 493-1629.