Working in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry: What You Need to Know

September 6, 2022

The offshore oil and gas industry provides thousands of jobs to the United States’ workforce. Many families supported by these jobs that are scattered along the Gulf Coast of Mexico understand the obvious safety concerns that come with working in the offshore oil and gas industry. 

Offshore workers generally work 12-hour shifts every day. If you add in the time for pre-shift meetings and handover time, most people are working at least 13 hours a day. Offshore drilling rigs operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Working offshore is dangerous. Rigs can explode, vessels can capsize, helicopters can crash, and workers can (and have) fallen into the water, never to be seen again. 

The offshore oil and gas industry provides thousands of jobs to the United States’ workforce. Many families supported by these jobs that are scattered along the Gulf Coast of Mexico understand the obvious safety concerns that come with working in the offshore oil and gas industry. 

Who Regulates And Enforces Safety Rules Of Offshore Oil And Gas Operations?

Following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the federal government created the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, to improve safety and enforce environmental regulations in the offshore oil and gas industry.

BSEE regulates and enforces safety rules of offshore oil and gas operations. Part of the BSEE’s responsibilities is to keep detailed information regarding incidents of non-compliance. When a violation or incident of noncompliance (INC) is discovered in the offshore industry, the BSEE will issue a warning or a shut-in. A warning is issued when the safety violation is not severe or threatening. A shut-in can be issued for a single component (a portion of the facility) or the entire facility.  The violation must be corrected before the operator is allowed to continue the activity in question.

Another one of BSEE’s functions is to track and investigate deaths that take place offshore—sort of. According to news sources, the number of offshore worker deaths is being undercounted by the agency.” BSEE’s data is missing and inconsistent. Making matters worse, BSEE has developed loopholes that allow some fatalities to go unreported, which in turn makes the offshore industry appear safer.

Nearly half of known offshore worker fatalities in the Gulf of Mexico from 2005 to 2019 were not counted by BSEE due to its reporting criteria. This was learned following BSEE’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. After BSEE responded to the FOIA request, it became known that BSEE does not count offshore fatalities that occur in state waters, or deaths that occur while workers are in transport to offshore facilities. BSEE does not count deaths that happen on offshore platforms that are not work related. This creates obvious reporting problems. In April 2021, six men died and seven went missing after a lift boat capsized on its way to an oil and gas lease in the Gulf. They will not be included in BSEE’s fatality statistics.

What Causes Offshore Oil Rig Accidents

Accidents that occur involving offshore oil and gas rig workers that result in serious injuries or fatalities happen for many different reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Damaged equipment
  • Exposure to dangerous chemicals or fumes that lead to burns, respiratory disease, or death
  • Exposure to electrical hazards
  • Exposure to highly pressurized equipment
  • Failure to create or implement safety policies
  • Failing, outdated or defective equipment and machinery that lead to breakdowns or other problems
  • Improper maintenance of equipment and facilities
  • Inadequate warning signs
  • Inadequate manpower or personnel for the job
  • Negligent training or supervision
  • Oil rig explosions and fires
  • Slippery conditions
  • Slip, trip, and fall accidents
  • Insufficient safety training for employees provided by the company operating the oil rig
  • Lack of safety equipment (hard hats, safety glasses, fire-resistant clothing, etc.)
  • Defective safety equipment
  • Overworked employees
  • Hazardous weather conditions

What Should I Do If I Am Injured Or If I Lose A Loved One To An Offshore Oil And Gas Operations Accident?

The insurance companies responsible for the negligence of its clients know that it is not in their best interest for an injured worker to reach out to an attorney to explore his or her rights to recover for damages that were sustained. In an attempt to avoid exposure to liability, the insurance companies will often resort to one or all of the following tactics:

  1. Get you to sign a release for a nominal amount of money so that you are barred from bringing any future claims for your accident and injuries;
  2. Obtain recorded statements immediately after the accident that will favor your employer and disfavor you; or
  3. Convince you that you do not have a claim because “nobody was at fault” or because “it was just an accident.”

No matter the tactic used by the insurance company, you should always seek legal advice before making any decisions that could affect your legal rights. Through years of experience, the Houston Offshore Injury Lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP know how to evaluate any potential claims that you may have which resulted from an offshore fatality or serious injury.  Call us today at 866-596-4465 for a free consultation regarding your accident and injuries.

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