National Oilwell Varco, often referred to as NOV, is an American company based in Houston, Texas, which operates internationally. It is one of the biggest providers of equipment and parts to the oil and gas industry. The company’s equipment is used in many of the oil rigs, drilling equipment, and offshore platforms used in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world.
NOV provides oil and gas exploration and production companies with everything from heavy hardware like top drives, derricks, and mud pumps to electronics and control systems to complete drilling rigs. NOV an also claim to be the largest employer in the entire Houston area. Many of the NOV employees are not themselves maritime workers, but much of the equipment that the company provides is used by maritime workers in other companies. If that equipment fails in anyway, NOV can be held responsible for a worker’s injury or death.
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National Oilwell Varco has a long history in the U.S. It formed from two original companies: Oilwell Supply was founded in 1862 and National Supply in 1893. Both of these early companies made equipment for oil drilling, like derricks and pumps. By 1987 the two had come together through a circuitous path to create National Oilwell. This company then merged with Varco in 2005. Varco was founded in 1908, named for its founders Vuilleumiere, Abegg, and Reinhold.
National Oilwell Varco is dedicated to providing products and services to the oil and gas drilling industry, both on land and offshore. The list of products they offer is long and technical and includes subsea production systems, floating production systems, offshore rigs and components like power systems, drilling pressure control, and iron roughnecks, and many, many more.
The company is divided into three main segments focused on the rigs, technology, and solutions for completing production projects:
- NOV Rig Systems. The segment devoted to rigs provides what the company calls the world’s most advanced drilling equipment and solutions. These include aftermarket, land, and offshore rigs and components.
- NOV Wellbore Technologies. This department focuses on the equipment and processes that improve and enhance drilling and creating wells. It includes things like drilling automation programs, drilling software, and hardware like drill bits and services like inspection and corrosion control.
- NOV Completion & Production Solutions. The final segment is dedicated to using the company’s decades of expertise to help clients finish on-target projects.
Safety and Company Culture
Working with the kind of heavy equipment provided by National Oilwell Varco is dangerous. It is risky for the employees of NOV who work with oil and gas companies to install and use the equipment, and it is dangerous for workers at other companies relying on this equipment to work in a way that is safe and that will not cause accidents and injuries.
NOV claims to have a dedication to safety and environmental responsibility. The company operates under a model called Health, Safety, and Environmental Management System, overseen by corporate leaders. This is implemented with guiding principles for creating a safe workplace and a company culture that puts safety first.
The company says that it trains its workers and provides the necessary tools and resources for them to do their jobs safely. The training focuses on preventing accidents with an approach that encourages all workers to plan, then do, then check, then act in order to identify all risks and potential hazards. To maintain this culture of safety first, the company holds regular safety and training programs for workers and clients.
No matter how dedicated a company says it is to safety, and how it makes efforts to prevent accidents and injuries, in the world of offshore oil, people are bound to get hurt. NOV has seen a number of workplace incidents. Some were within the company and others were in other companies using NOV equipment. In either situation, NOV can be held accountable and may be sued by injured workers exercising their rights to compensation under maritime law.
Once such terrible incident occurred when a NOV worker fell 85 feet down an elevator shaft on board the Discoverer Deep Seas offshore rig. The worker was installing a new elevator when he was told by NOV to deviate from the specifications. Those changes were rejected by another supervisor, and according to the injured worker this all forced him and his crew to work faster than was safe. This, he says led to his fall. The worker made all of these claims in a lawsuit against NOV in which he is seeking damages for severe and debilitating injuries and multiple surgeries. Because he was working on an offshore rig, he could claim rights under maritime law.
Some workers exercise their rights under maritime laws to get compensation for injuries that are much less severe, but still significant. Another NOV worker sued for compensation after being exposed to an epoxy chemical that caused him to suffer an allergic skin reaction. The reaction was bad enough to leave the worker with a semi-permanent impairment.
Another incident occurred with a worker for another company who was affected by a NOV product. The worker was aboard a Transocean Deepwater Champion drill ship when he walked underneath a NOV top drive system. Part of the system fell 13 feet and struck the man on the head. He suffered from a laceration to the scalp, even though he was wearing a hard hat. NOV had previously warned clients that pieces can drop from this kind of equipment, but the company may still be held liable for the accident and the man’s injury.
Maritime Law and Workers’ Rights
Employees who work with NOV equipment on offshore oil rigs are given certain rights under maritime law to seek compensation if injured. Usually it is the employer who is held responsible, but if an employee of a different company is hurt by NOV equipment, the blame may be harder to place. If it can be found that there was a fault in the equipment, negligence may be found to be with NOV.
In either case the worker injured has rights under maritime law to seek and receive compensation for accidents and injuries. Workers on oil rigs offshore are generally protected under the Outer Shelf Continental Lands Act. If a worker is injured on a ship or other seagoing vessel, that worker is more likely to be covered under the Jones Act.
Whichever law is found to be the relevant one, workers can rely on that law to get them the money they need to pay for medical bills, to compensate them for pain and suffering, and to cover lost wages. If you have been hurt at a maritime job, be sure to seek the advice of a maritime lawyer before agreeing to any deals with your employer.