Oil rigs throughout the Gulf of Mexico are owned and operated out of Texas with Texans operating them. These offshore oil rigs and other rigs around the world end up in the news every few years for serious fires and explosions, but these are far from the everyday operating conditions. While serious injuries are possible on oil rigs and workers die every year from the dangers of working in the oil industry, fires are not particularly common. The Houston oil rig disaster lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm explain how common oil fires are on offshore drilling rigs and discuss other information about oil worker injuries.
How Many Fires Occur on Oil Rigs Each Year?
Historically, some of the largest oil disasters have involved explosions and fires on oil rigs. Since the 60s, there have only been a few serious oil fires on offshore oil rigs each decade. However, the 80s and the 2010s have seen around 6 catastrophic oil disasters each decade, soaring above the rates in other eras. This is partly because both decades saw huge increases in the technology used to pump oil faster as well as overall growth in the industry.
Today, there is more demand for oil than ever before, and more drilling rigs operate to meet these demands. This means that more and more oil drilling accidents may occur, even though safety procedures and equipment have improved drastically since offshore oil drilling began. The Piper Alpha fire in 1988 and the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 are prime examples of these disasters. Fortunately, increased safety protocols and emergency devices make more recent disasters less deadly. The more recent Deepwater Horizon disaster saw significantly fewer injuries than the Piper Alpha incident in 1988, with 11 deaths and 17 injuries compared to the 167 killed at Piper Alpha (more than the entire crew of Deepwater Horizon).
How Do Oil Rigs Prevent Fires?
Many fires occur because some sort of safety feature was inoperable or because staff failed to do their job with the proper care and skill. In the law, this is called “negligence,” and is the basis for many injury lawsuits. For example, the Piper Alpha fire occurred when a pipe was left open during routine maintenance, then left exposed during a shift change. Similarly, some safety features were left out of the design of Deepwater Horizon to cut costs, and when the disaster occurred, fail-safes that should have worked to stop the blowout did not function properly. In addition to implementing as many powerful fail-safes as possible, oil companies prevent disasters by properly using, maintaining, and upgrading those fail-safes.
In addition to fail-safes, oil workers also take care to prevent fires by following strict rules about sparks and fires. Smoking may be permitted on some rigs, but only in designated areas – and lighters are often banned entirely. In addition, open fires and sparks may be totally banned during processes where gas or fumes would be especially dangerous. Even flashlights and cell phones may be banned to avoid sparks. Workers may use brass, bronze, plastic, or wax-coated tools to prevent sparks during crucial stages of drilling and pumping.
Worker training is also essential. Properly training workers on how to prevent fires and what safety precautions to take is a vital step in ensuring the rig is safe.
Lastly, emergency fire-fighting technology and procedures are in place to prevent the spread of fires if things go wrong. Shut-off valves should stop oil pumping in case of a blowout, preventing more fuel from adding to the fire. Firefighting ships may be nearby, as well as fire suppression systems on the rig itself.
Injuries from Oil Rig Fires
As evidenced by some of the disasters you read about in the news, oil fires still happen despite these safety procedures. If an oil worker or the oil company failed to use property safety techniques or prevent disasters, injured workers may be able to file lawsuits for their on-the-job injuries.
The burn injuries and other injuries sustained during an oil disaster can be severe. In many cases, the wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits that victims and their families file can help victims get compensation for medical expenses, ongoing care, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
If you or a loved one was the victim of an oil drilling injury, you should consider taking your case to a personal injury lawyer. Our Dallas personal injury lawyer at The Queenan Law Firm has decades of legal experience representing the victims of severe accidents and fighting to get them the compensation that they and their families need to move on.
Texas Oil Worker Injury Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident in the oil drilling industry, contact the Queenan Law Firm today. Our oil injury lawyers fight for victims of oil and natural gas disasters and work to get them the compensation they need for medical expenses, lost wages, and other harms and losses. For help with your case, contact our law offices today to schedule a free legal consultation. Our number is (817) 476-1797.