It goes without saying that workplace safety often hinges on the maintenance of equipment. That is certainly true in the oil and gas industry.
One need only look at one of the worst oil and gas accidents in history, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy which apparently involved numerous equipment maintenance and failure issues. The explosion that occurred there killed 11 people and seriously injured 17 others. In addition to the injuries and fatalities there was also significant environmental damage along the Gulf Coast.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 600 oil field and rig workers were fatally injured on the job between 2002 and 2007–many due to various mechanical problems. Perhaps even more alarming is that the statistics also show that these jobs are getting more dangerous all the time. From 2002 to 2006 the number of deaths per year increased by approximately 70%, from 72 deaths in 2002 to 125 in 2006. These workplaces are extremely dangerous. According to estimates, the fatality rate among oil and gas workers is nearly eight times that for all workers in the United States.
Efforts at improving workplace safety must focus on equipment maintenance. Proper maintenance keeps the oil rigs and other equipment working as they should, without the chance of one-time blowouts or malfunctions that hurt those working in the vicinity. When maintenance is done improperly, or not at all, oil and gas workers are put in serious danger.
Unfortunately, productivity often determines when and how maintenance is performed. Irregular or nonexistent maintenance saves the oil and gas companies money. Productivity decreases when the equipment is shut down for maintenance. The profit-motive therefore makes it more likely that the industry will not be proactive in its safety measures. All too often this means that problems are only addressed after a worker has been seriously injured or killed. Even then, the problems may persist.
Following these tragedies, those involved may be able to seek compensation for their losses. There are many complexities and challenges with these cases beyond the obvious technical challenges of figuring out how and why an accident occurred. In New Mexico, the Worker‘s Compensation Act places strict limits on claims by employees (and their estates) that are injured or killed on the job.
The New Mexico Worker‘s Compensation Act provides an exclusive remedy for employees injured or killed on the job. In short, the employee is prevented from suing the employer for personal injury or wrongful death in all but the most outrageous situations. In short, the employer must more or less send the employee to certain death before the exclusive remedy protection is waived by the employer.
In these types of cases, where the injuries (if the worker survives at all) are typically very serious. The Worker‘s Compensation benefits do not come close to fully compensating a worker for very serious personal injuries or wrongful death. As such, the worker must identify a third party who is responsible or shares responsibility for the accident. In these types of cases, there is often no shortage of parties who share the blame due to the large number of contractors, subcontractors, equipment providers, manufacturers and the like.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an oil or gas accident, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. There are strict deadlines associated with these cases so it is important not to delay. Missing a deadline will bar your claim completely.
Oil and Gas Facilities Pose Significant Risks to the Public When Not Properly Maintained
The Oil and Gas Industry Can Be a Dangerous Place for Workers
Employers Protected from Liability for Gross Negligence Toward Employee Safety