Oil rig workers face unique and dangerous challenges working on steel surfaces in icy surfaces during the winter. Some methods of warming oneself is nearly impossible due to the highly combustible substances nearby which may explode. On the other hand, extreme cold can result in hypothermia and other injuries like frostbite. When offshore, powerful storms and winds can knock over equipment and cause injuries, or a slip and fall can take a deadly turn.
According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s Offshore incident statistics, there were 73 explosions, and 150 injuries in 2017 alone.
The CDC reported that during 2003 to 2013, the number of work-related fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry increased 27.6%, with a total of 1,189 deaths although the annual occupational fatality rate significantly decreased during this 11-year period. From 2003 to 2013, 1,189 oil and gas extraction industry employees died while working, resulting in an average of 108 deaths per year.
The report showed that more than 50% of the fatally injured were employed by companies that service wells.
The difficulty of working in cold and dark hazardous conditions is recognized worldwide.
“Try to imagine changing a tire in freezing weather, snow and darkness,” says professor Tore Markeset, a specialist in cold climate technology at the University of Stavanger (UiS) to describe the struggle of oil companies trying to produce oil and gas from the far north of the Norwegian continental shelf. The dangers of working on oil rigs in the winter add a new dimension to the traditional slip and fall injuries.
To mitigate and prevent such injuries, organizations like American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Society of Safety Engineers have set recommendations for protecting oil workers who work outside. Usually, each vessel is required to have a certain number of life-saving appliances like life rafts and life jackets. Vessels should also have measures and procedures in place to protect their employees as they go about their job, anticipating harsh weather conditions.
Many foreign countries have their own organizations publicizing and setting design and safety standards for all vessels to ensure that vessel designers and owners meet certain requirements. Some private companies also offer services to help vessel owners stay compliant and within regulation limits.
However, providing adequate safety measures can be costly and maintaining safe conditions can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars as safety regulations change over time or materials degrade from use.
In 2012, a 30-year-old rig ran aground while it was being towed south for the winter. The Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society said the accident involving Shell’s oil rig is new evidence that oil companies are not prepared to safely manage the extreme conditions of the Arctic.
This was one example of how harsh, winter conditions and storms can pose risks for employees working on oil rigs, especially when employers fail to provide adequate safety measures.
If you were injured on the job with viable claims, you may be entitled to compensation including payments for medical bills and lost wages. You should seek the advice of our oil refinery accident attorneys in claims against your employer or third parties. Act now to protect your legal rights, contact us for a free, confidential consultation today.