Offshore work and production is a vital part of the American economy. Shipping, freight, oil drilling, shipbuilding – maritime occupations are a necessary part of trade and commerce. Unfortunately, as vital as these jobs are, they are also among the most dangerous in the world.
Offshore workers are at a high risk for offshore accidents and injuries ranging from minor incidents to catastrophic failures. Below, the offshore Accident Lawyers at Kherkher Garcia, LLP discuss the wide range of accidents and injuries that affect maritime workers. We also explain why it is so important to have a skilled maritime lawyer on your side.
Common Offshore Accidents Affecting Workers
Offshore drilling can be a hazardous job, and workers on offshore platforms are exposed to a variety of risks. Some common accidents that workers experience on offshore platforms include:
- Slips, Trips, and Falls: Workers may slip or trip on wet or uneven surfaces. This can lead to injuries such as broken bones, sprains, or head injuries.
- Machinery Accidents: Workers operate and maintain heavy machinery, and accidents involving equipment such as drills, cranes, or forklifts can lead to serious injuries or fatalities.
- Fires and Explosions: Offshore platforms handle flammable materials, and fires or explosions can occur. Explosions may be due to equipment malfunction, human error, or natural disasters.
- Chemical Exposure: Workers may be exposed to hazardous chemicals used in drilling operations. This can lead to skin irritations, respiratory problems, or more serious health effects.
- Structural Failure: Offshore platforms are subject to harsh weather conditions and wear and tear, and structural failure can occur, leading to accidents or fatalities.
- Drowning: Workers are at risk of drowning due to the proximity of water and the potential for accidents to occur.
To prevent these accidents, employers must prioritize worker safety and provide proper training, safety equipment, and maintenance of equipment and facilities. Regular safety inspections and drills can also help minimize the risks of accidents on offshore platforms.
Common Injuries Occurring in Offshore Accidents
Offshore drilling can be a dangerous profession, and injuries can occur due to a variety of factors. Not all accidents or incidents are catastrophic, but they can still cause injuries to those involved. Some common offshore injuries that offshore workers experience include:
- Burns: Workers may be exposed to flammable materials or high-temperature equipment, leading to burns.
- Head Injuries: Workers can suffer head injuries from falling objects or accidents involving heavy equipment.
- Back Injuries: The heavy lifting and repetitive motions required in offshore drilling can lead to back injuries, such as strains or sprains.
- Hand Injuries: Workers may suffer hand injuries from handling equipment or tools, such as cuts or crush injuries.
- Respiratory Problems: Workers may experience exposure to hazardous substances, such as chemicals or gases, which can cause respiratory problems.
- Hearing Loss: Workers may experience hearing loss due to the loud noises produced by drilling equipment.
- Broken Bones: Workers may slip and fall on wet or slippery surfaces, leading to broken bones or fractures.
- Drowning: Offshore drilling workers are at risk of drowning due to the proximity of water and the potential for accidents to occur.
It’s important for employers to take steps to ensure the safety of their workers, including providing proper training, safety equipment, and adequate medical care in the event of an injury.
Significant Offshore Incidents
In addition to the common accidents and injuries that affect offshore workers, there is also the potential for massive, devastating offshore incidents. In recent decades, a series of offshore incidents have led to alarming loss of life, injuries, and damage to the environment. A few examples of such incidents include:
Perro Negro 6 Capsize
In February 2023, the jack-up drilling rig, Perro Negro 6, capsized off the coast of Angola. One of the three legs of the rig collapsed during drilling. One worker onboard has never been found, and six others sustained injuries. The rig eventually sank in 40 meters of water.
The Elgin Platform Gas Leak
In 2012, a gas leak occurred on the Elgin platform in the North Sea, resulting in an evacuation of workers and a major environmental threat. The leak occurred due to a failure of the pressure control system. It took 51 days to plug the leak, by which time an estimated 200-400 cubic meters of gas was released into the environment.
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
In 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The force of the explosion resulted in the loss of 11 lives and extensive environmental damage. An estimated 210 million gallons of oil were leaked into the Gulf of Mexico wreaking havoc on the ecosystem, wildlife, tourism, and local communities.
The West Atlas Rig Blowout
In 2009, a blowout occurred on the West Atlas drilling rig in the Timor Sea off the coast of Australia, causing an oil spill and environmental damage. The blowout was significant enough to completely destroy the oil rig. It took 10 weeks for workers to cap the well, at which point 400,000 barrels of oil had leaked into the sea. While no workers were injured, this incident had a significant impact on the environment and economy.
The Piper Alpha Disaster
In 1988, an explosion on the Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea caused the loss of 167 lives and is considered the deadliest offshore oil rig accident in history. The explosion was caused by a series of factors including a leak in a condensate line, failure of safety systems, and a buildup of flammable gas. Before the rig collapsed and sank, 61 workers were evacuated.
These incidents are just a few examples of the dangers of the offshore industry. Many of the factors that led to these incidents are human error, or a lack of proper inspection and safety protocols. These accidents highlight the importance of safety protocols and proper equipment maintenance in offshore drilling operations.
How Can Offshore Accidents and Injuries be Prevented?
There are always risks when working in the maritime industry. There are, however, safety regulations that owners, operators, and supervisors must follow to promote a safe work environment. Offshore injuries can be prevented by following proper safety procedures and protocols. Here are some measures that can be taken to prevent offshore injuries:
- Proper Training: Workers must receive adequate training on safety procedures, handling equipment, and emergency response protocols.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employers must provide appropriate PPE, including hard hats, gloves, goggles, and safety harnesses, to protect workers.
- Regular Maintenance: Regular maintenance of equipment and facilities can prevent equipment malfunction or structural failure.
- Emergency Preparedness: Employers must develop and practice emergency response plans to minimize the impact of accidents and respond to emergencies effectively.
- Hazard Assessment: Regular assessment of the work environment can identify potential hazards and allow employers to take steps to mitigate risks.
- Proper Staffing: Proper staffing levels and scheduling can prevent worker fatigue, which can lead to accidents and injuries.
- Communication: Employers must promote open communication between workers, supervisors, and management to identify and address safety concerns and prevent accidents.
By implementing these measures, offshore injuries can be minimized, and workers can be kept safe. It is crucial for employers to prioritize safety in offshore operations to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring.
What Maritime Workers Should do After an Accident or Injury
Maritime workers who are injured while working offshore have rights to benefits and compensation under maritime laws. It is important that maritime workers understand their rights and responsibilities. Taking the following steps after an accident or injury can help maritime workers get the help they need:
- Report the Injury: Workers should report the injury to their supervisor or employer as soon as possible. The report should include details about the injury and how it occurred.
- Seek Medical Attention: Workers should seek medical attention promptly. In some cases, emergency medical attention may be necessary. Workers should keep a record of all medical treatments and diagnoses related to the injury.
- Document the Injury: Workers should document the injury by taking photographs or video of the injury, if possible. They should also document the conditions under which the injury occurred.
- File a Claim: Workers should file a claim for compensation with their employer or the appropriate agency. Workers may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages under maritime law.
- Consult an Offshore Accident Lawyer: Workers often find it helpful to consult with a lawyer who specializes in maritime law. A skilled lawyer can help navigate the claims process, ensure workers’ rights are protected, and assist them in pursuing any legal action if necessary.
It is essential for maritime workers to take the right steps after an injury occurs. Following proper protocols and getting legal guidance can help protect workers’ rights and ensure they receive proper compensation for their injuries.
Why Contact a Maritime Offshore Accident Lawyer
Workers in offshore operations have rights under maritime laws like the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. These laws allow injured workers the ability to file claims against owners, operators, employers, or other parties whose negligence caused their injuries.
Maritime injury claims can provide valuable compensation for injured workers, such as:
- Medical Expenses
- Lost Income
- Pain and Suffering
Maritime law is complex and there are several factors that will determine what rights and laws may apply to workers, such as their job title, occupation, and the circumstances of their injury. Working with a skilled offshore accident lawyer can help maritime workers understand their rights and the options they have for recovery. Furthermore, a lawyer can help ensure that all claims are processed and handled correctly, with the workers’ best interests in mind.
Get a Free Consultation with an Offshore Accident Lawyer
At Kherkher Garcia, we are committed to helping maritime workers get the help they need. Whether you have been injured on a ship, oil rig, drill, or dock, we can help you explore your options for compensation.
Our lawyers have decades of experience holding negligent employers and ship owners accountable for their actions. We are not afraid to tackle complex maritime matters or challenge major maritime companies.
To start your free consultation, call us at 713-333-1030, or reach out to us online.