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Hard Hat Area: Dangers of the Rig Floor

by | Aug 27, 2019 | Catastrophic Injuries, Oilfield Accidents, Workplace Accidents, Wrongful Death | 0 comments

Welcome to the rig floor, where more oilfield accidents happen than any other location on the drilling rig. Roughnecks on the rig floor are some of the most prone to injury, positioned next to the moving drillstring, using heavy tongs and fast-moving spinning chains, heaving the slips, and working around the rotary table. Here are some of the major hazards roughnecks and floorhands face when on the rig floor.

Cuidado: Piso Mojado

Slipping and falling is probably the most common rig floor accident. Drilling mud and crude oil slicken the metal floors, even coating the rubber tread on work boots. Falling on the rig floor, however, also means possibly falling beneath or between heavy equipment. To prevent falls, staff must keep the rig floor tidy, and companies should take extra measures (adding non-slip mats, etc.).

The Tongs

Manning the tongs on the rig floor is a dangerous part of the job. Roughnecks use hydraulic or pneumatic metal tongs, which act like suspended pairs of giant pliers, to grab and wrench pipe sections while tripping in and out of the well. Roughnecks risk pinching and crushing injuries from tongs, especially on the fingers and hands. They can also be struck by swinging tongs or even falling tongs, which sometimes fail from lost bearings or pins, rusty chains, or corroded cables.

Spinning Chains

Spinning chains, though phased out on many rigs due to high accident rates, are still used on some rigs to screw pipe sections together faster. Yet the fast-moving chain can easily trap objects such as clothing and fingers as it’s strung around pipe – causing injury and even amputation. Taut spinning chains can also unravel or break suddenly, whipping floorhands with enough force to break bones and lacerate skin.


Rotary slips are heavy, tapered metal plugs ranging from 100-200 lbs. Roughnecks grab the handles and heave one into the rotary table when they want to suspend the drillstring during tripping. Most injuries from slips are caused by improperly lifting one, causing back, arm, and other stress injuries, though dropping a slip of falling with one is also dangerous.

Rotary Table and Kelly Bushing

The rotary table is a rotating section of the floor (on many rigs) that uses a kelly system to spin the drillstring through rock. It is most dangerous when people or other objects get caught in it. Getting caught between the kelly bushing and rotary mechanism can cause serious crushing injury, and the moving table itself poses a slipping hazard.

What goes up might come down…

Roughnecks and floorhands work directly below anything that might fall from the derrick. Unfortunately, a lot of heavy things can fall from the derrick, including tools, pipes, the drillstring, the top drive, even the crown block and other rig structuring during mechanical failure or rig collapse. Unpredictable accidents like these claim lives every year.

Wyatt Law Firm Fights for Oil and Gas Workers

Although oil and gas workers accept the danger inherent in the job, the work is often made more dangerous by improper operation. Faulty parts, missed inspections, skipped protocol, poor management, and other shortcomings cause serious injuries and fatalities in the oilfields each year. However, oil and gas companies are often slow to admit when a major accident could have been prevented, even if it means denying injured workers their due. That’s where we come in.

If you have been injured or your loved one has been killed in an oilfield accident, you may be entitled to compensation. The Wyatt Law Firm has been fighting for the victims of oilfield accidents for years, fearlessly taking on “big oil” to win real results for real people. We have the experience, expertise, and determination needed to win. Call us today at 210-340-5550 for a free case review, or submit a confidential contact via our website.

Squaring up against powerful companies might seem daunting, but you are not alone. Bring an army with you.

Let us fight for you.

Check out our website for more information about our practice areas; or, explore our legal blog for more information on oilfield accidents.