No one ever wants to need an oil rig accident attorney, but when accidents and explosions impact oil rigs off our coast and workers are injured or killed, an oil rig accident lawyer is often the first person that an injured worker needs to call. Sadly, this is exactly what happened on November 20th when three workers were injured and one was killed during an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
What We Know So Far
Details are still emerging about this incident, but CBS News has reported that damage was limited and, since the rig was not in production, there has been no pollution or oil spillage noted. This fact has been confirmed by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The company that owns the rig, Fieldwood Energy, released a statement that the facility was undamaged and that the isolated incident had been contained. At the time of the explosion, the workers had been cleaning a piece of equipment responsible for separating the oil from water as well as other liquids. The equipment they were cleaning is called a Heater-Treater. This is the same piece of equipment that caught fire on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana in 2011, forcing 13 rig workers to evacuate.
The worst part of this week’s explosion is knowing that it might have been prevented. Six months ago, regulators notified Fieldwood Energy that the equipment on the rig had not been maintained properly and was not in a safe condition. Whether the specific equipment noted to be unsafe was the same equipment that exploded this week is yet to be confirmed.
Just four years after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, people all over the United States are understandably concerned when they hear about any incident involving an offshore rig. The Deepwater Horizon explosion was a massive tragedy, killing 11 workers and injuring 16. The explosion also created a giant oil spill with a reported 4.9 million barrels worth of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. Over the past four years this has resulted in pollution on the beaches of Gulf States like Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and Florida.
What Offshore Oil Rig Workers Need to Know
Working on an offshore oil rig is one of the most dangerous ways to earn a living. But oil rig workers have not been forsaken by legislators. They are protected under the Jones Act, federal legislation covering maritime workers who are sick or have accidents on the job. Because of this act, oil rig workers have the right to make a claim against their employer for damages after an incident such as this week’s explosion. They also have the right to a jury trial, which is a very important benefit and part of what separates the Jones act from traditional workers compensation rights.
Employers, like energy companies with offshore oil rigs, have an obligation to keep their employees safe. We have yet to discover whether neglected safety standards are to blame for this most recent explosion, but if so, the workers families deserve just compensation. All offshore oil rig workers should actively hold their employers responsible for maintaining safety standards including having working generators that can pump water and put out explosions early, keeping equipment maintained and repaired, and replacing older, worn equipment and parts. When an oil rig worker finds that their employer or management has been lax in any of these duties, they should contact one of the many Jones act attorneys who specialize in fighting for the rights of maritime workers. An offshore injury lawyer should also be consulted as soon as an event occurs, that causes injury or a fatality.