What To Know About Panhandle Oilfield Accidents
Despite being one of the largest industries in the Lone Star State, working in oil and gas can be a considerably dangerous field to get into. This is especially true for those working in oilfields in the Texas Panhandle. Knowing how often panhandle oilfield accidents occur and what makes them so dangerous can help keep those at risk informed about their legal options should danger arise on the job.
The Texas Panhandle is home to multiple oilfields such as the Petrolia Oil Field, and refineries like the Valero McKee Refinery 45 miles north of Amarillo. Oil and gas production in the Panhandle is only continuing to increase due to the scarcity of natural resources available and the corresponding rise in oil and gas prices.
Panhandle Oilfield Accidents
Despite its massive successes over the years, the Texas oil industry has proven to continue to be particularly dangerous for workers. Back in 2010, for instance, a Texas Panhandle pipeline explosion occurred just outside of Darrouzett. The blast killed two unsuspecting workers and injured three others after a utility crew accidentally struck and ruptured a natural gas line. In its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found the pipeline had either been unidentified or was left unmarked.
While 2010 has long passed, panhandle oilfield accidents and other such incidents that occur are far from slowing down. Over the past two decades, the oil and gas industry has seen unprecedented growth. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that between 2003 and 2013, the industry doubled its workforce and increased drilling rigs by 71 percent. As this growth has undoubtedly continued over recent years despite setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also increased the likelihood of injury and accidents. In 2019 alone, there were more fatalities in the oil industry than there were in 2014 through 2017 combined.
In 2020 alone, during the pandemic’s augmented work hours, 25 deaths occurred in 22 separate Texas oilfield incidents. The largest portions of these incidents were due to workers being caught under, in, or between equipment.
The Most Common Types of Oilfield Accidents
Working in an oilfield is largely considered to be among the most dangerous and deadliest jobs to have. Because oilfields present unique risks for accidents that can potentially result in fatal or severe injuries, it’s important to understand how panhandle oilfield accidents can occur.
The most common accidents that can happen when working in an oilfield include:
Electrocution: When working in an oilfield, workers are often exposed to various chemicals that may conduct electricity. If electrocution happens in an oilfield, it can cause burns, unconsciousness, and even death. Workers should be sure to report any incidents of exposed wiring and management must perform regular maintenance checks to help prevent electrocution oilfield accidents.
Equipment Failure: Oilfield drilling sites often use dangerous and large pieces of equipment. This heavy machinery is necessary for mixing mud, drilling for oil, pulling pipes, and other worksite needs. When faulty, however, oilfield equipment can cause serious injuries and can even be fatal. Because of this, all on-site machinery must be well-maintained and proper training must be provided to all workers. When management doesn’t effectively train oilfield workers, dangerous accidents can happen.
Slip and Fall: Slip and fall injuries can be incredibly serious for anyone working in an oilfield. Contractors can easily slip and fall from elevated rigs, resulting in catastrophic injuries if the area does not have appropriate safeguards present.
Blowouts: Oil well blowouts can happen when there is an uncontrolled release of oil while drilling is in progress. Usually, this is due to faulty machinery, particularly in pressure control systems. Blowouts can become even more potentially harmful if the oil is ignited. Employers should train workers in how to be aware of blowout warning signs like liquid spurts and increased well pressure. If a worker suspects a blowout could be imminent, they should warn their supervisor immediately.
Burns: Fires and/or explosions can easily happen in a panhandle oilfield. These incidents can be particularly damaging for anyone caught in the crossfire, as burn injuries can greatly impact one’s quality of life and could result in the need for reconstructive surgery. Oilfield burn injuries can happen for a variety of reasons and result in a variety of types of burns, including contact burns, flash burns, electrical burns, and chemical burns.
Gas Poisoning: Poisonous gases like hydrogen sulfide are commonly present in oilfields. These gases can quickly collect in places with little to no ventilation and are colorless and unpredictable. Although mostly known to have a sulfuric, rotten-egg smell, workers who inhale too much of the gas can experience olfactory fatigue, where they no longer recognize the odor. Workers may also suffer from other symptoms like headaches, nausea, and rapid unconsciousness. Employers must provide the proper protective equipment, teach employees how to use it, and ensure it is worn at all times to help prevent workers from inhaling these toxic fumes and suffering the consequences.
Rig Collapse: In certain cases, an oil rig’s faulty construction or lack of proper maintenance can quickly cause it to become unstable and prone to collapse. Once a rig collapses, it can have a devastating impact and result in injuries to the back and spine, severed limbs, traumatic brain injuries, and broken bones. Workers who have been trapped underneath a rig can suffer fatal injuries.
Attorneys For Panhandle Oilfield Accidents
Panhandle oilfield accidents have become an unfortunate reality for many in the Texas oil and gas industry. The Texas Panhandle includes Amarillo, Borger, Canyon, Dumas, Hereford, Pampa, and more locations. These incidents can be devastating for victims and their families, and the negligent parties responsible should be held accountable. At Lovell, Lovell, Isern & Farabough, LLP, our experienced workplace injury attorneys are ready to help you in the aftermath of a devastating on-the-job accident.