Oil rigs are extremely dangerous workplaces. According to an analysis by Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, oil, gas, and mining derrick operators suffer approximately 46 injuries per 100,000 workers, behind only logging and aircraft transportation workers. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) indicates that 76 workers in the oil and gas extraction industry suffer fatal injuries each year.
If you or a loved one works on an oil rig, understanding these seven most common oil rig injuries can help you maintain safety awareness and avoid oilfield death and injury.
Most Common Types of Oil Rig Injuries
Dangerous weather, slippery surfaces, heavy equipment, hazardous materials, and explosive substances contribute to many oil rig accidents. To protect your safety and avoid common pitfalls, learn about the seven most common types of injuries on oil rigs.
Oil rigs use heavy equipment in confined spaces and inclement weather. One of the most common injuries on oil rigs is crushing injuries from being trapped under or between heavy equipment. Crush injuries can result in serious complications, including organ damage, broken bones, and nerve injuries. Left untreated, a crush injury could also cause compartment syndrome and life-threatening infection.
Amputation and Loss of Limbs
Limb loss or amputation can occur following loss of blood circulation due to lacerations or crush injuries on an oil rig. Oil rig workers who suffer limb loss or amputation face significant medical expenses and may be unable to return to work. Sometimes, they need a prosthetic or artificial limb to regain mobility.
Even with medical devices and assistive equipment, limb loss is a highly traumatic injury with long-term physical, psychological, and financial effects. Achieving maximum medical recovery can take years of expensive medical procedures and physical therapy.
Inhalation of Toxic Chemicals
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), many oilfield injuries occur due to toxic chemical exposure. Workers in the oil and gas industries are exposed to a variety of dangerous substances, including:
- Diesel particulate matter
- Hydrogen sulfide
- Hydrocarbon gases and vapors (HGVs)
- Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM)
While OSHA has established respiratory safety standards, workers with insufficient protection against toxic substance inhalation can suffer respiratory distress, infection, emphysema, pneumonia, and cancer.
The heavy equipment and machinery used in oil and gas extraction create extremely loud conditions that can compromise workers’ hearing. In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reports that as many as 24% of workers in the mining, oil, and gas extraction sector suffer from hearing loss due to noise exposure.
Hearing loss can make it difficult for workers to perform their duties safely. They may also have trouble in their daily lives, as hearing loss can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and isolation.
Severe Burn Injuries
Since employees in the industry regularly work with flammable oil and gas, it is no surprise that burns are a common oil rig injury. Exposure to explosions, fires, hot surfaces, natural sources of radiation, and corrosive chemicals can result in painful, disfiguring thermal and chemical burns.
Severe burn injuries sometimes require multiple surgical skin grafts that can take months or years to heal. Victims with extensive burns may suffer dangerous side effects, including shock, infection, and sepsis.
Even fully healed burn injuries can exhibit scarring that reduces the victim’s movement and causes isolating disfigurement. Oil rig workers with burn injuries may be unable to perform work-related duties or engage in regular daily activities without distress.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur when an oil rig worker slips on a wet surface, falls from a height, or is struck by a heavy object. Any blow or jolt to the head can cause a TBI. Signs to watch for include:
- Dizziness, weakness, and balance issues
- Uncharacteristic irritability, anger, anxiety, or sadness
- Confusion and cognitive difficulties
- Excessive sleep or sleep disruptions
- Nausea and vomiting
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Seizures or convulsions
Even seemingly minor head injuries or concussions can have serious long-term effects. Workers should seek a medical evaluation after experiencing any jolt or blow to the head. Some moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries may not exhibit symptoms until days later. Prompt attention is crucial to ensure adequate treatment and reduce the potential for severe long-term effects.
How To Prevent Oil Rig Injuries in the Workplace
Due to the many safety hazards presented in oil and gas drilling and maintenance activities, OSHA has evaluated the most significant risk areas and established clear safety standards. Oil rig employees who follow safety procedures and regulations are less likely to suffer from injury while on the job.
OSHA safety guidelines for oil and gas workplaces address the following:
- Personal protective equipment
- Confined spaces standards
- Fall protection and prevention
- Flammable liquid handling and fire safety
- Fire protection equipment and procedures
- Compressed gas and equipment
- Pressure vessels
- Hazardous energy controls
- Machine barriers, guards, and general safety
Oil companies and their workers can reduce the potential for injuries and oil rig deaths by following OSHA safety standards and guidelines. This includes training and communication regarding hazards, machine and equipment usage, personal protective equipment, and emergency response procedures.
Employers who fail to adhere to appropriate procedures can be held accountable for severe injuries and wrongful deaths that occur as a result. If you suffered injuries while working on an oil rig, an oilfield accident attorney can help you understand your legal rights and guide you through the claim process.
Seek Professional and Legal Advice From a Personal Injury Lawyer
Due to the dangerous conditions on oil rigs, workers can suffer severe injuries that result in extensive physical and monetary hardship. Injured oil rig workers and family members who lost loved ones in oil rig accidents have a legal right to pursue compensation.
Protect your legal rights and recover financial compensation for oilfield injuries and losses by contacting an oil rig injury attorney at Dunn Sheehan today. During your free consultation, a personal injury attorney can hear your story, review your case, and explain your legal options.