Are Oil Drilling Accidents Becoming More Common?

The oil and gas industry is known for being hazardous, but some sources suggest that oil drilling accidents are becoming more common.  According to the US Energy Information Administration, forecasts for 2018 suggests that crude oil production will average 10.7 million barrels per day (bpd), up from four million bpd 10 years ago.  Those numbers are estimated to increase further in the upcoming few years.

As crude oil production has increased, so have the number of oil drilling accidents.  These accidents have a devastating impact on the victims and their loved ones, shareholders, and the industry as a whole.  For several years, researchers and investigative reporters have chronicled the increase in accidents.  Let’s take a look at some of this information about the increase in oil drilling accidents, as well as relevant example cases.

If you have questions about a specific work-related injury, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our maritime injury attorneys.

Oil Drilling Accidents Becoming More Common

In 2014, the Houston Chronicle published an investigation titled “Drilling Boom, Deadly Legacy“.  This story focused on how an industry that built prosperity for so many has also built a legacy for death and injuries.  In 2012, accidents and injuries in the oil and gas industry hit a 10-year high, with 65 deaths occurring in 2012 alone.  That number was 60 percent higher than the previous year.

According to the U.S.  Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2007 and 2012, 663 workers died while working in oil-related industries, including oil drilling and fracking.  Around 40 percent of those workers died in Texas.

What may come as a surprise to many readers is the fact that onshore drilling operations seem to be more dangerous than offshore drilling operations.  According to data from OSHA:

  • The federal government has had 22 years of failing to implement safety standards and protocols for onshore oil and gas drilling.
  • Even major incidents like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have only resulted in more strict regulations for offshore drilling, but have not included regulations for onshore drilling operations.
  • OSHA is only required to investigate accidents that cause hospitalization of three or more workers, or death of one or more workers. That has resulted in about 150 of 18,000 work-related injuries or illnesses being investigated.
  • Of the accidents that OSHA did investigate, 78 percent included safety violations.

Oil Drilling Accident Example Cases

“Bogie Pad” Failure Case

In August 2018, the family of one oil rig worker filed a lawsuit in Harris County for $150 million.  The lawsuit named Occidental Petroleum, Helmerich & Payne, and AIP as defendants in the case, which stemmed from an accident on a land-based oil rig.  According to reports, the accident occurred in January 2018, when the worker was struck on the head by a 30-pound object that fell over 100 feet before hitting the man.

The object, known as a “bogie pad”, was not properly secured, and it was determined that the bolts designed to secure it were either damaged or missing.  The lawsuit further states that the design itself was dangerous, and that workers had used the wrong materials to operate and maintain the bogie pad.

The worker who was struck on the head suffered severe brain damage and was in a coma for several weeks.  He is now permanent disabled and will require ongoing medical treatment and assistance with care and supervision for the rest of his life.

Explosion Claims Multiple Lives

In July 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Patterson-UTI Drilling, Crescent Consulting, and Skyline Directional Drilling after an explosion on an oil drilling rig in Oklahoma killed five workers.  The companies were cited for failure to maintain proper controls, failure to inspect slow descent devices, and failure to implement emergency response plans.  All three were cited for failure to ensure that heat lamps used were approved for hazardous locations.

In this case, the three companies were facing penalties of just over $118,000.  Media sources have identified that the penalties are virtually “negligible” for companies with resources like these, especially in light of the violations and loss of life.

Will Oil Drilling Accidents Continue to Increase?

There are a few reasons why investigators and researchers believe that oil drilling accidents may continue to increase.  First, crude oil production in the U.S.  is slated to rise in upcoming years.  Second, regulatory oversight has been a contentious element among U.S.  government officials, including the President.

In the past year alone, regulations have not been implemented to keep up with the increase in lease sales and drilling.  Further, government officials have pushed for less strict financial penalties for violating rules.  In July 2018, the Trump Administration took further steps that could inhibit independent oversight of nuclear facilities.  That action caused many to fear what the future holds for hazardous industries like the oil and gas and power industries.

According to Robert Alvarez, who was influential in developing the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, “we shouldn’t have to wait for something to blow up or catch fire in order to pay attention to a safety problem”.  With oil drilling accidents and deaths on the rise, Mr.  Alvarez makes a strong point.  It’s time for officials to look hard at safety policies, regulation, and oversight, and ensure that workers are protected.

Learn More about Oil Drilling Accidents and Your Rights

If you or someone you love has been injured while working in the maritime industry, including oil and gas related jobs, there may be several options for compensation that could help cover medical and other expenses.  Your options will depend largely on your job title and description, any contracts, and the details of the accident or injuries suffered.

To find out more about your legal rights and what you may have, contact Brown & Brothers for a free consultation with one of our skilled maritime injury attorneys.  Fill out our online form to get started.

 

Sources:

https://www.equities.com/news/oil-drillers-facing-increase-in-accidents-and-potential-liability

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/special-reports/article/Houston-Chronicle-exclusive-Drilling-boom-5259311.php