Causes of Injuries in Offshore Oil Production and Exploration
Depending on whose statistics you accept, it is estimated that up to 20% of the oil and natural gas production in the United States takes place in "offshore" locations. While those employed on these offshore rigs enjoy some of the highest wages in the energy sector of the economy, these same workers are exposed to a much higher risk of serious injury, or death, than that of their "dry land" counterparts.
Today, the maritime and offshore injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm will provide an introduction to the types of injuries that are commonly encountered on offshore rigs and then briefly describe the benefits that may be available to injured offshore workers and their families.
In no particular order, the top five causes of accidental deaths and injuries on offshore platforms are:
- Transportation to and from an offshore platform
- Being struck by equipment
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Fires and explosions
Transportation to and from an offshore platform
Offshore rigs and platforms are usually located at least 50 miles from the nearest shoreline. This means that work crews must be transported to and from that location by either helicopters or resupply boats. Since the weather at sea can be radically different than ashore, it is not unusual for helicopters to be forces to return to their base without completing their mission. Also, resupply boats have been known to capsize in rough seas and are always in danger of striking the rig itself.
The decks of offshore platforms and rigs are constantly exposed to both the environment and the presence of chemicals that are used as a part of the rig's day-to-day operation. If the decks are not carefully maintained, it is likely that a worker will slip and fall. Should the worker fall from the deck to the ocean surface, and if no one observes the fall, it is quite possible that a worker could be killed by the fall or even drown.
Being struck by equipment
Offshore oil and gas production makes extensive use of heavy lifting equipment. Due to weather conditions, it is often difficult to precisely control where a load will be positioned and an injury to a worker could occur.
Exposure to toxic substances
Most offshore rigs make extensive use of industrial-grade chemicals on a daily basis. In most cases these substances are harmless but some chemicals can react with other substances and, in the process, liberate toxic gasses. Additionally, long-term exposure to some substances may not produce symptoms of an illness until well after the worker leaves the rig.
Fires and explosionsSince most offshore rigs are involved in oil and gas exploration / production, there is always the risk that the slightest spark could cause a catastrophic fire or explosion. Due to their distance from shore and the difficulty in mounting a rescue team, fires and explosions are the most feared accidents on an offshore rig.
Compensation for offshore accident victims
Like their onshore brothers and sisters, offshore workers are eligible for workers' compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. The difference between onshore workers' comp and offshore workers' compensation is that offshore workers are covered under a provision included in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) of 1953 and its later amendments.
Like regular workers' compensation, OCSLA covers most of the medical expenses that an injured worker will incur after an injury but OCSLA benefits tend to be more "generous" than those provided by a state-administered compensation program. As an example, most state programs pay an injured worker between 50 to 60% of the worker's average weekly wages but OCSLA will provide 66% of an injured employee's wages and possibly more, again depending on the type and circumstances of the injury.
Not everyone who is injured on an offshore rig is eligible for OCSLA but, in some cases, it is possible for an offshore worker who is injured while ashore to claim OCSLA benefits. The circumstances under which the injury occurs and the duties of the injured worker at the time of the injury are the major "tests" to determine who qualifies for OSCLA. It is strongly advised that an injured offshore worker contact a workers' compensation lawyer who is familiar with this potentially complicated matter to ensure that they receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Injured Offshore? Contact an OCSLA lawyer to protect your rights!
As we have seen, offshore workers enjoy some of the country's highest hourly wages but, at the same time, they are also exposed to working conditions and job hazards that few workers would care to risk. Fortunately, offshore workers' injuries are covered by a provision within the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
If you, or a family member, have been injured in an offshore accident, the Doan Law Firm invites you to contact us to arrange a free evaluation of your personal injury claim and our advice on how we think you should proceed in order to protect your right to be compensated for your injury and other losses.
When you contact our firm, your initial consultation with us is always free of any charge to you and does not obligate you to hire us as your legal counsel. If you later decide that we should manage your OCHLA compensation case, we are willing to assume all responsibility for preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.
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