Offshore maritime jobs, such as those on oil rigs and natural gas platforms, can be very dangerous. Offshore maritime accidents and injuries are common and sometimes even lead to fatalities. Maritime law gives you the right to seek compensation if you work offshore and have been injured.
There are many ways in which accidents can occur on offshore rigs and platforms.
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Accidents that cause environmental damage most often make the news, and these are mainly drilling accidents.
When drilling for oil or gas at the bottom of the ocean, a misstep can lead to a leak or a gush of oil or petroleum that has devastating consequences for ocean environments. Workers can be harmed in these accidents too.
Fires caused by leaks are a major concern for workers on oil rigs. As with workers on a ship, there may not be an easy way to escape when a fire breaks out, and this can lead to falls off the rig, smoke inhalation, burns, and even death.
Fires and explosions represent the third-leading cause of fatalities on oil rigs and platforms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mechanical equipment failures or misuse of the heavy equipment used in platform drilling can also cause accidents. According to the CDC, contact with equipment and machinery was the second-leading cause of death on oil rigs.
The incidents recorded included mechanical failures and a loss of engine power on the rig. From 2003 to 2010, these kinds of accidents caused eight deaths.
The leading cause of accidents and fatalities for oil rig and platform workers is related to transportation. Workers must be transported to and from offshore rigs, and these trips are dangerous.
Most deaths occurred when workers were being flown by helicopter. Bad weather was most often to blame. Workers may also be transported to rigs by ship or boat, which also account for many fatal accidents.
Finally, workers on offshore rigs and platforms are also at risk of being exposed to dangerous and toxic chemicals. These include oil and gas. Exposure is the fourth-leading cause of death for these workers, but accidents that lead to exposure can also cause illnesses, injuries, and fatalities.
Common Injuries on Offshore Rigs
The various types of accidents that most commonly occur on oil rigs and platforms cause too many unfortunate fatalities. Still, they also lead to injuries for many workers lucky enough to survive the incidents.
The ultimate cause of these accidents may be bad weather, operator error, mechanical failures with equipment, fatigue caused by long working hours, improper training of workers, or lack of safety training and equipment.
Whatever causes the accidents, there are often resulting injuries that range from mild to severe and life-threatening:
- Weather can cause hypothermia or falls overboard.
- Accidents with equipment can lead to head injuries, neck injuries, shoulder injuries, lost limbs and amputations, cuts, and lacerations.
- Fires cause burns and respiratory illnesses. Chemical exposure can cause rashes, respiratory distress, and burns.
- Transportation accidents that aren’t fatal may lead to broken bones, hypothermia, and back, neck, and head injuries.
Examples of Offshore Accidents and Disasters
Accidents that occur offshore are often spectacular, and many of these make the news. Other accidents are less newsworthy but cause damage, injury, and death.
The Deepwater Horizon
The Deepwater Horizon incident in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico blowout was one such spectacular incident. An explosion on an offshore rig led to a huge oil spill and the worst environmental disaster in the U.S.
The accident also injured 16 workers and killed 11 more. Those 11 were never recovered and were thought to have been near the explosion when it happened.
Gulf of Mexico Platform Fire
Another fire aboard the Gulf of Mexico natural gas platform, occurred in 2013, although this one was much less serious. A blowout occurred and started the fire.
Forty-four workers aboard the rig were safely evacuated. The fire was put out fairly quickly, and the hurried response kept the workers safe and uninjured and prevented another spill that could have created environmental damage.
North Sea Oil Rig Explosion
One of the worst offshore accidents ever to occur happened on the Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea in 1988. An explosion and resulting fires led to the death of 167 workers.
Only 61 people survived the incident. The incident also caused huge monetary damage, as it destroyed the platform which had been pumping out ten percent of all oil and gas from the North Sea.
Offshore Worker Rights under Maritime Law
Working aboard an offshore oil rig or gas platform is dangerous. If this is your job, you put yourself at risk of not just injury but also death every day. If you have been injured in an offshore accident, you have the right to seek compensation according to maritime law.
One law that specifically covers offshore workers is the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Because other aspects of maritime law only cover seamen or longshoremen, this law was designed to protect oil rigs and platform workers.
It also protects the dependent loved ones of workers so that if you die on the job, your loved ones will not be left without compensation.
If you have fallen victim to one of these tragic accidents and don’t think your employer is compensating you adequately, you can file a claim to get what you are owed.
Let a professional and experienced maritime lawyer represent you and help you through the claims process. Your loved ones can also count on an attorney to help them make claims if necessary.