Why is Offshore Work So Dangerous?

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Drilling operations offshore are extremely dangerous.

Workers on the drilling platforms are exposed daily to hazardous conditions, including inclement weather, hazardous materials, flammable products, and heavy equipment. The risk for injury is extremely high in these working conditions – and when an injury occurs, they are typically catastrophic.

One report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the fatality rate for offshore oil and gas drilling is seven times higher than the typical fatality rate for all United States workers from 2003 to 2010.

So, what is it that makes this line of work so dangerous – and why are there more fatalities seen in the oil and gas sector than others?

Reasons Oil and Gas Drilling Offshore is Dangerous

To fully understand what makes this industry so dangerous, you must understand the injuries commonly seen too. Even with complete compliance, injuries happen offshore. All it takes is a single mistake, even one that seems minor, to lead to a catastrophic (if not fatal) incident.

Transportation Accidents – Equipment and Workers Being Moved

A leading cause of accidents offshore comes from the transportation.

In the same CDC report, it was found that transportation-related accidents accounts for more than half of the fatal offshore incidents.

Helicopter and boat accidents were one of the leading causes of accidents within that category. Whether it was taking employees to and from an oil rig, or bringing equipment and supplies. Often weather was to blame for these incidents, but also poor maintenance and equipment failure contributed to the high number of deaths.

Heavy Equipment Injuries and Deaths

A typical oil rig is riddled with heavy equipment – most of which is extremely dangerous. Employees receive in-depth training on how to use this equipment properly to avoid serious injury, and oil rigs are supposed to maintain this equipment to ensure its safety.

More than 16 percent of fatalities in offshore operations occurred from contact with heavy equipment and objects. These accidents involve a variety of situations, including becoming trapped in heavy equipment, being struck by falling objects, or having a limb trapped inside of a piece of equipment.

Fires and Explosions

Fires and explosions occur more frequently than people realize on offshore drilling rigs. While the incident of Deepwater Horizon is one people are familiar with, there are many explosions and catastrophic fires that occur each year that never reach the news.

Oil rigs are littered with flammable materials – in addition to the oil they are drilling. When these operations are not extremely cautious about how they handle these materials, a serious fire can occur. Fires on oil rigs can take hours to days to stop – making it harder for rescue personnel to locate those who are injured.

Limited Access to Emergency Personnel

Offshore oil rigs are miles from shore – and many workers cannot even see the shore from where they are. That means when a serious incident occurs, it could take hours for rescue personnel to reach them and take them to the closest medical facility.

For some injuries, such as internal bleeding or a brain injury, these delays can result in permanent injury or death.

While oil rigs have medical personnel on staff, they are not equipped to handle serious injuries or life-saving surgeries.

Extreme Weather Conditions

The weather far out at sea is much different than on shore. Storms bring heavy rainfall, extreme winds, and surges of ocean water. These storms can be so severe that oil rigs will evacuate several days before the storm is expected. Other times, workers are left to ride out the storm and maintain the rig during the storm.

Workers can be pushed off the oil rig into the ocean, struck by lightning, suffer serious slips and falls on wet docks, and be hit by objects blowing in the wind.

Receiving Compensation for Offshore Injuries

Offshore workers have different rights than those injured working ashore. These protections come in various forms – depending on the location of the oil rig. One common protection is the Jones Act. To file a lawsuit, however, you need thorough knowledge of maritime law – which is a highly complex area of the law.

Sometimes your offshore injuries might qualify for protections under the Jones Act, but if you are not classified as a “seaman” then you will need to turn to other areas of the law to file your lawsuit. For example, some offshore injuries might qualify for protections under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). This act provides you with compensation for offshore injuries, such as those on an oil rig.

Do You Need a Skilled Offshore Accident Attorney?

While you could negotiate with insurance companies, employers, and attorneys yourself, you have serious injuries to recover from – and the last thing you need is to perform legal research or attend numerous meetings while you recover.

An offshore accident attorney or maritime injury attorney can help you with your case. When you hire an offshore accident attorney, you get an advocate who can:

  • Research the facts and identify the true cause of your injury.
  • Navigate through the complex legal process, including federal acts, to find which laws apply to your case.
  • Talk with witnesses and obtain their testimony to strengthen your case.
  • Obtain and organize evidence to prove your case if you go to trial.
  • Consult with industry professionals, including doctors, engineers, and offshore experts to establish your injuries and recreate the scene of the accident for a jury.

Different federal laws can apply to a variety of cases, and some offshore injuries implicate laws which overlap – further complicating matters.

Therefore, if you have suffered an offshore injury, it is in your best interest to speak with a maritime injury attorney.

At Shlosman Law Firm, we understand what you are going through and we know how complicated a maritime injury can be. Our team is here to support you through this difficult time – and we will not rest until you receive the compensation you need.

Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our team today by calling 504-826-9427, or request a consultation appointment online.