When you signed up for a job on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, you probably expected it to be tough work in hazardous conditions. Deckhands, mechanics, operators and other crew on fixed platforms and offshore drilling rigs can suffer permanent and life-threatening injuries. Although your employer is responsible for your safety, it might be smart of you to gain knowledge of the most common safety risks and look out for your own safety.
Statistics show that most of the fatalities in the oil and gas industry occur during the preparation of the site, drilling, and servicing of the well operations. You could prevent permanent disability or worse by taking precautions to avoid the most significant risks, which include struck-by hazards and caught-in hazards.
The force of impact when an object in motion strikes you can cause severe — or even fatal — injuries. The objects could be swinging, rolling, falling or flying.
Mobile equipment and fleet vehicles can strike workers and crush or injure them. They can create a rolling hazard with a mighty force and weight — even at a slow speed. You can prevent objects from rolling by taking the following precautions:
- Carry out frequent preventative maintenance to ensure mobile equipment and vehicles are in good working order.
- Use the parking brake whenever you park the vehicle or mobile equipment.
- Turn the wheels when parking at an angle or on a grade to prevent them from rolling backward or forward.
- Use chocks to prevent the wheels from moving whenever you park.
These hazards include swinging pipes, traveling blocks, spinning chains and tongs when you lift objects to the rig floor or make drill pipe connections. Swinging arms and the loads of excavators and cranes also pose dangers that you can avoid by doing the following:
- Learn where to stand to be safe when tripping pipe in or out.
- Use barricades to prevent access to the area in the swing radius of excavators and cranes.
- Maneuver suspended loads with tag lines.
- Make sure all workers in the area know about suspended loads.
- Never go without a hard hat.
Falling or flying objects
Workers at elevated levels can drop tools, pipes, lumber, scrap and even small objects such as bolts and nuts — all of which can cause severe injuries. Suspended loads can fall, and objects such as worn out hammerheads can become projectiles and cause flying risks. Precautions include the following:
- Always tether tools to your tool belt or the platform structure when you work at heights.
- Create no-go areas by using barricades below elevated workers.
- Install guardrails, screens or toe boards on platforms.
- Avoid standing below suspended objects.
- Make sure you wear the necessary personal protective equipment, including a hard hat.
- Keep lifting, hoisting and rigging equipment in good working order, and inspect them daily to identify and repair damaged parts.
Any falling or rolling object poses a caught-in or caught between hazard that can crush, squeeze or pin you. Unprotected equipment and machinery with spinning chains or rotating parts can pull you in. To prevent severe loss of blood, amputations, lacerations and even death, you can take the following precautions:
- Learn how to recognize potential hazards and how to respond.
- Always use lockout/tagout procedures where necessary.
- Never work on machines that do not have the required safeguards to prevent contact with moving parts, and never remove those guards without first locking out the equipment.
How will you cope with an injury?
If you were a victim of a struck-by or caught-in hazard, you might suffer temporary disability, which will leave you without an income and mounting medical bills. Your best option will be to consult with a Louisiana attorney who has experience in dealing with the Jones Act, which is like workers’ compensation for offshore workers. A lawyer can determine the best way to pursue damage recovery for past and future medical expenses, loss of current and projected earnings, pain and suffering and other losses.