Working in the oil industry can be a gratifying experience, but it also comes with several risks. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates about 69 workers were killed and more than 876 injured in oil and gas extraction-related incidents in the US in 2017 alone.
Since oil and gas extraction can be highly hazardous, employers must go the extra mile to provide a safe working environment for their employees. Similarly, workers should take extra measures to protect themselves from injury.
One of the best ways for employers and employees to ensure workplace safety is by understanding common risks of working in the oil industry, and here are some of them.
1. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Unaddressed Leaks
When oil or other fuels combust, they produce carbon monoxide, a highly poisonous gas that can build up to dangerous levels inside a confined space. Long-term exposure to this chemical can lead to brain damage, cardiac complications, and even death.
Unfortunately, detecting the presence of carbon monoxide leaks can be challenging since the gas is often odorless and colorless. Therefore, employers must install carbon monoxide detectors in their facilities and ensure they are working correctly.
Luckily, if you have developed carbon monoxide poisoning due to your employer’s negligence, you can recover damages through a workers’ compensation claim or lawsuit. But before taking legal action, it is best to consult an experienced oil field accident lawyer in your area.
A good lawyer can help you review whether you have a valid claim, advise you on protecting your legal rights, and ensure you get fair compensation.
2. Fires and Explosions
Fires and explosions may not be common incidences in the oil and gas industry, but they can be enormously devastating when they happen. In fact, oil and gas extraction employees are at a higher risk of experiencing a fire-related fatality than in any other sector.
In 2017, explosions and fires were the fourth leading cause of fatal injuries in the industry, causing the deaths of at least ten people.
Explosion and fire risk is so high in the oil industry due to the highly volatile nature of the materials used in drilling operations. Additionally, the high temperatures created during oil and natural gas production can cause materials to combust more easily.
Injuries caused by fires and explosions can range in severity from minor burns to life-threatening injuries. Victims may endure long recovery periods and deal with physical and emotional trauma for years.
3. Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are other common injury causes in the oil and gas industry. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics approximates slips, trips, and falls were responsible for 23 percent of all job-related injuries in the sector in 2020.
The oil and gas industry is especially susceptible to slips, trips, and falls due to the presence of several slippery substances, such as oil residue and spilled hydraulic fluids. Workers may also be exposed to hazards such as uneven floors and unprotected stairways.
Common injuries resulting from slips, trips, and falls include broken bones, head injuries, lacerations, and bruises. Employers can reduce the risk of slipping and falling in workplaces by installing non-slip flooring and handrails on all stairs and ensuring all walkways are clear of debris.
4. Vehicle-Related Accidents
Many workers in the oil and gas sector spend a significant amount of time on company-owned vehicles while on the job. While most of these automobiles are often operated by skilled and experienced professionals, there is always the possibility of being involved in a crash.
In the US, vehicle-related accidents are the leading cause of work-related injuries and fatalities in the oil and gas sector. In fact, 42 percent of all fatalities in the industry in 2017 resulted from auto accidents.
Motor vehicle accidents can leave victims with life-threatening injuries, including spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injuries, and amputations, or even lead to death. An excellent way for employers to reduce the risk of auto accidents is by ensuring company vehicles are well-maintained and safe to operate. Company drivers must also follow road safety guidelines and obey all traffic rules.