Whether onshore or offshore, no one can deny that working on an oil rig is a dangerous job. The combination of harsh conditions, heavy machinery, and the inherent risks of drilling for combustible materials far beneath the earth's surface means that disaster could strike at any moment on an oil rig. Many people view oil rig accidents as something unavoidable—the nature of the beast if you will. While it is true that you cannot engineer out every single risk, some steps can be taken to prevent a large percentage of the accidents that kill or injure rig workers.
Oil Rig Accident Statistics
Most Americans have at least a basic understanding of the severity of oil rig accidents but are not fully aware of how frequently they occur. Catastrophes such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion made worldwide headlines, but many more rig accidents happen all across the country with little to no fanfare.
Below are some statistics regarding the number of oil rig accidents and injuries in the United States:
- In 2012, there were 138 oil rig fatalities.
- From 2003-2008, 648 oil rig workers were killed on the job.
- Oil rig workers are 8 times more likely to be killed at work than the average American.
- In 2012, 675 rig workers reported broken bones as a result of an accident on the rig.
- In 2012, another 99 workers suffered severe burns, 79 workers lost a limb, and 82 workers were crushed in a rig accident.
Improving Safety on Oil Rigs
It is no secret that safety is not always the primary concern for oil companies. After all, being safe in the workplace involves slowing down production to ensure workers are well-rested, alert, and practicing good safety habits. For oil companies, all of that translates to less production and fewer profits, so safety all too often takes a back seat.
To reduce the number of oil rig accidents, that mentality must change. Groups such as the South Texas Exploration and Production Safety Network (STEPS) are vital to helping improve the safety culture within the oil industry. STEPS works to promote safety in the oil and gas industry and influence government leaders to pass stronger regulations regarding workplace safety.
Unions can also play a key role in promoting safer workplaces. Unions such as the United Steelworkers (USW) have put their workers on strike this year to help negotiate better safety policies in oil fields and other industrial plants and refineries. One of the USW's primary concerns is the long hours that employees are asked to work. In some cases, workers are given 12-hour shifts as many as 28 days in a row. Studies have found that overworked employees are more likely to make mistakes that lead to catastrophic accidents.
What to Do If You Have Been Injured in an Oil Rig Accident
If you have been injured in an oil rig accident, it is crucial that you consult with a knowledgeable attorney as quickly as possible. If your employer was negligent in providing a safe workplace, it could be held liable for your injuries. Unfortunately, after every accident, the oil companies immediately send out a team of attorneys to investigate that accident and interview witnesses. This is done in hopes of finding a way to avoid taking responsibility for the accident and denying compensation. That is why it is necessary to have someone on your side looking out for your legal rights.