Common oilfield accidents and what causes them

Common oilfield accidents and what causes them Texas oil country can be dangerous for the workers dedicated to serving the increasing energy demand. Reach out to an San Antonio oilfield injury lawyer. Many incidents can cause disabling injuries to oilfield workers, and those injuries can be catastrophic. Over 100 oilfield and gas extraction workers are killed on U.S. job sites each year, and thousands more suffer disabling injuries. Further, these statistics do not account for the thousands of additional workers who develop potentially fatal cancers and chronic medical conditions from continuous exposure to carcinogens and workplace toxins. With the expansion of operations into the Permian Basin and other areas, the risks have increased. Even when activity is low, some risks remain high for oil industry workers. Texas serves as the largest oil-producing territory in the United States by a wide margin. With the nearly 2 billion barrels produced each year, Texas oilfield workers have the highest statistical risk of experiencing life-changing oilfield accidents. Do not let oilfield defense attorneys and risk management teams bully you and your family after devastating Texas oil and gas accidents.

Common Types of Oilfield Accidents in Texas

San Antonio Oilfield Accident LawyerThere are many reasons Texas oil and gas workers experience a disproportionately high rate of worksite injuries. Causes of major oilfield accidents range from problems with the land and structures to defective drilling equipment and human error. According to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the following events account for the majority of oil and gas workplace injuries.

Workplace Vehicle and Transportation Accidents

Despite the various dangers posed by drilling and controlled explosions, highway motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of oil worker fatalities. Almost half of all workers (4 in 10) killed on the job die in crashes during transportation to and from the worksite. Because oilfield workers must travel to drill sites—often located in rural areas requiring long commutes and on private land with relaxed traffic guidelines—workers have an increased risk of suffering serious injuries during high-speed vehicle crashes. Further, driver fatigue while transporting workers after long shifts is one of the leading causes of oilfield transportation accidents. These crashes frequently result in devastating injuries, including:
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Herniated discs
  • Concussions
  • Severe brain trauma
  • Back and neck strains
  • Shoulder and knee damage
  • Paralysis
Texas oilfield workers generally qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer injuries in motor vehicle accidents while being transported to or from the extraction site. Workers might also demand traditional personal injury damages from non-employers, such as contracted transportation companies and negligent drivers, after oilfield transportation accidents.

Fires and Explosions

The highly flammable nature of oil and gas leaves workers at risk for suffering serious injuries following explosions and fires. The largest environmental damage and personal injury settlement in history—$20.8 billion—was obtained after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, fire, and oil spill. According to OSHA, these explosions primarily occur when sparks or heat from common sources, including cigarettes, overheated equipment, welding and power tools, lightning, electric sparks, open flames, static, and friction ignite flammable hydrogen sulfide, gas, and vapors. These highly flammable substances naturally escape from surface equipment, such as shale shakers and tanks, wells, and trucks without detection. Even one spark from a smoking co-worker can trigger chain-reaction explosions resulting in catastrophic burns and smoke inhalation injuries. Workers suffering from widespread third-degree burns frequently require months of hospitalization, dozens of painful skin graft surgeries, and years of additional cosmetic procedures. Claimants with serious burns sometimes require lifesaving limb amputations if the burns damaged their blood vessels or they developed life-threatening infections. Workers’ compensation insurance cannot fairly compensate oil workers who suffered serious burns in explosions, especially if they’re coping with disfiguring injuries and constant pain. Paula Wyatt and her dedicated oilfield explosion injury attorneys might help claimants recover pain and suffering damages from negligent product manufacturers and site owners following devastating fires.

Pressurized Equipment Failures and Struck-By Accidents

In addition to thermal explosions, compressed gases and eroding pipelines may result in sudden pressurized explosions. Weak, old, and defective oil equipment may burst under pressure, resulting in dangerous flying debris and shrapnel. Even small shards of fast-moving piping debris could result in devastating chest and open traumatic brain injuries. Many of these explosions occur when drill site owners and employers fail to follow mandatory safety and maintenance guidelines. Equipment manufactures might also bear liability for designing and selling drilling equipment that’s unfit for normal industrial use. It costs money to check and replace eroding pipelines, so owners may cut corners by extending the life of these old pipes. Experienced Texas oilfield injury lawyers might hold product manufacturers, negligent contractors, and drill site owners liable for pressurized explosion injuries.


Elevated falls are the leading cause of disabling construction and worksite injuries regardless of industry. Oilfield workers are especially susceptible to elevated falls because they’re often required to ascend high drilling platforms and masts frequently covered with grime. Wet conditions and oil mixed with drilling particles and dirt frequently create muddy, slippery conditions on already dangerous elevated platforms. OSHA requires oil industry employers to abide by specific fall prevention guidelines, including using scaffolding and harnesses in most cases. Site owners (generally through contractors) must also monitor their equipment and remove slippery conditions. Falls commonly result in serious traumatic brain injuries and spinal damage, permanently disabling many San Antonio oil and gas employees.

Caught By and Crushing Accidents

Three of every five oilfield injuries are caused by crushing, struck by, and caught between accidents. Multifaceted oil and gas equipment contain numerous pockets workers may find themselves pressed into or crushed between. Many crushing accidents occur when negligent drivers back into and pin co-workers between moving equipment or strike workers with moving cranes. Falling pipes and tools may also strike workers on the ground. Unguarded pumps, rotating wellheads, belt wheels, hoist blocks, conveyors, top drives, and compressors also cause devastating crushing injuries resulting in complex fractures, amputations, and permanent nerve damage. For these reasons, numerous OSHA requirements govern crushing and striking accident prevention. These include regulations covering:
  • Machine and machinery guarding
  • Hard hats and head protection
  • Hand and foot protection
  • Handling movable materials
  • Operating cranes, crawlers, and industrial trucks
  • Slings
  • Face and eyewear protection
Following drill site safety regulations serves two purposes: (1) stopping preventable accidents and (2) protecting workers from serious injuries after unpreventable accidents or co-worker negligence. Many disabling oilfield injuries occur when employers violate the detailed industry safety protocols designed to keep their employees safe or, at the very least, prevent potentially fatal trauma. A Texas attorney might help injured oil and gas workers recover additional, specialized damages if intentional or reckless safety violations cause or contributed to oilfield injuries.

Confined Space and Chemical Exposure

Unfortunately, the confined spaces oilfield workers must operate in present unique hazards. Sudden chemical leaks could lead to suffocation and concentrated exposure to toxic chemicals such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, HF acid, hydrogen fluoride, PAHs, and carcinogens such as benzene. Likewise, Texas oilfield workers are especially susceptible to petcoke—the term used to describe the heavy, toxic dust created as a by-product of tar sands during oil processing. These toxic substances cause various cancers, cardiopulmonary diseases, lung damage, heart attacks, and related respiratory disorders. Strict environmental monitoring regulations apply in such cases, and employers must generally test the air quality before sending workers into confined spaces and throughout the workday. Some of the above diseases, including certain cancers, do not manifest until years after prolonged exposure to oilfield and refinery chemicals. Special exceptions apply to workers who discovered their conditions in the months or years after their last exposure. You might still demand workers’ compensation benefits and personal injury damages in such cases, but recovering compensation for delayed onset diseases generally requires legal assistance.

Determining the Cause of Oilfield Accidents and Recovering Financial Compensation

Texas and federal officials closely regulate the oil and gas industry due to the various dangers associated with oilfield accidents. However, just because these well-known dangers exist does not excuse third-party neglect or failure to follow safety protocols. Identifying the cause of an oilfield accident can help determine the worker’s financial compensation rights in Texas. Accident causes range from mere fatigue, often caused by long shifts and lack of proper rest periods, to improper maintenance of drills or exploration equipment. There may be insufficient safeguards at the site or refinery facility, and certain equipment might contain dangerous defects. There may also be a lack of safety regulations and emergency protocols. The dangers are everywhere. Although there have been some improvements over the years, thousands of people suffer injuries in Texas oilfield accidents every year. Experienced oil and gas accident attorneys often work with dedicated industry experts to identify the cause of serious accidents and maximize the value of your claims.

Am I entitled to workers’ compensation benefits after oilfield worksite injuries?

Although Texas does not require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, nearly all oil and gas industry employers maintain this coverage. Injured oilfield workers must generally file injury reports within thirty days of the accident, but attorneys recommend reporting any potential chemical exposure or sudden injuries, such as dull back pain, immediately. This can help supervisors preserve essential evidence of workplace hazards and identify potential witnesses. Most workers injured on the job, including during transportation to and from the worksite, may demand immediate, no-fault lost wage and medical benefits from their workers’ comp carrier. In exchange, the injured employee cannot sue his employer, either directly or vicariously due to co-worker neglect, for personal injury damages. These lawsuit protections apply regardless of whether the employee files a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation coverage may provide partial lost wage compensation to injured employees assigned lite duty or long-term benefits for employees recovering from serious burns, heart attacks, or back injuries. However, cases involving catastrophic injuries including:
  • Amputations and limb crushing injuries
  • Widespread full-thickness burns
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
  • Spinal cord damage (paralysis)
  • Terminal cancer
  • Death
Some cases often result in lump sum settlements negotiated by Texas workers’ compensation attorneys. These settlements consider the value of the injured worker’s lifetime lost earnings, lost earning capacity, workplace benefits, medical needs, and physical suffering. Insurance adjusters often attempt to reduce or deny benefits following career-ending injuries, but an attorney may help you appeal these denials and demand fair settlements if you act quickly. While our firm does not handle workers’ compensation claims, we can direct you to somebody that does.

Could I have a legal claim beyond workers’ compensation?

Injured oilfield workers very well may have legal claims for damages beyond the payments provided by workers’ compensation carriers. Most oil and gas workers injured on the job receive workers’ compensation. However, workers’ comp only covers injuries caused by someone in your own company, and there can be many companies involved at an oilfield site. For example, you may have a personal injury claim in addition to your workers’ comp claim if another crew was responsible for a trench that collapsed. Or, you might have a personal injury claim if you were backed over by a trucker who was delivering materials to the site. Or, you might have an additional claim if a power tool malfunctioned and injured you. In these cases, an experienced personal injury attorney might help injured claimants recover additional damages in lawsuits for:
  • General negligence, such as speeding resulting in motor vehicle crashes
  • Product liability, such as defective or dangerous machines or safety equipment
  • Gross negligence (recklessness), such as extreme and shocking safety violations
  • Assault and battery, such as injuries due to unlawful pushing and touching
  • Premises liability, such as the failure of worksite owners and managers to clean up dangerous spills and make the premises safe for its intended use
Therefore, you need to discuss your situation with a personal injury attorney. You could be due additional damages for negligence as a result of your injuries. Work with a personal injury lawyer with experience in oilfield accidents in Texas to gain a better understanding of your options.

Financial Damages Potentially Recoverable Following Texas Oil and Gas Accidents

Whether via workers’ compensation or traditional personal injury settlements, oilfield workers injured in the following incidents might recover both economic and non-economic damages:
  • Motor vehicle accidents, either in the fields or transporting materials
  • Oilfield, pipeline, and refinery fires
  • Explosions and chemical fires
  • Well blowouts
  • Exposure to sulfur hydroxide fumes
  • Exposure to hydrogen sulfide
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals used in fracking
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Trench collapses
  • Fallen objects
  • Caught-between or crushing accidents
  • Equipment failure
Economic or pecuniary damages refer to the claimant’s direct past and future financial losses. In most cases, these include the value of medical costs, household/nursing care, lost wages, and lost employment benefits. These damages are often high after oil and gas accidents because serious injuries frequently prevent oil workers from pursuing their chosen careers. These highly physical and dangerous jobs often mean even non-catastrophic injuries, such as back and neck pain, can completely prevent workers from maximizing their earning capacity. Experienced injury lawyers frequently retain economic and occupational experts to calculate these damages following catastrophic oilfield injuries. Non-economic damages—often calculated by multiplying the claimant’s overall economic damages—compensate injured workers for the physical pain and emotional anguish and physical or mental impairment often accompanying oilfield injuries. These damages may include compensation for the emotional suffering associated with burn injuries and terminal cancers, the physical pain and discomfort frequently accompanying back and neck trauma, and the lost enjoyment of life associated with physical and cognitive disabilities. The more serious the injury, the higher the value of most pain and suffering awards.

The Benefits of Retaining a San Antonio Oilfield Accident Injury Lawyer

paula a wyatt attorney wyatt law firm san antonio
San Antonio Oilfield Injury Lawyer, Paula A. Wyatt
As the leading state for oil production and associated drill site injuries, our experienced Texas attorneys know how to recover needed personal injury damages for injured oil workers and their families. Whether you need assistance understanding your rights, or filing personal injury claims, our dedicated oil and gas accident lawyers don’t receive payment unless our clients recover needed compensation. Do not go up against the oil industry alone. Contact the San Antonio oilfield injury lawyers at the Wyatt Law Firm for free by calling (210) 340-5550 or connecting with us online.


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