Common Causes of Oil Rig Explosions – Machinery Malfunctions and Dangerous Equipment
Many large pieces of heavy equipment are necessary for oil rig operations. This machinery is often dangerous to operate and if it malfunctions it can cause severe injuries or fatalities. Rotating equipment can injure workers if they are struck or caught between machinery. Additionally, machinery could cause fires or explosions when used in some situations. Machinery that malfunctions could spark a fire.
Hot work is any type of work that requires the use of heat or sparks. Welding and flame cutting are two examples. Hot work is particularly dangerous in areas where chemicals are used. Highly combustible chemicals could be easily ignited with a spark which could set off a fire or explosion. Hot work that is done in confined spaces is especially dangerous because of the potential for chemical or gas buildup in the area.
Employees need to be aware of the dangers of hot work in oil production operations. Some accidents are caused by careless employees or those who were not properly trained in how and when to utilize some types of machines. Equipment should only be used for its intended purpose to ensure safety.
Maintenance and Operation
Machinery must be properly maintained to make sure that it is functioning as it should. Regular inspections are needed before employees use the equipment. All equipment needs to be tested before it is used. Testing provides a dual function. It makes sure that the item is functioning as it is supposed to and it allows employees to practice using it. If it is not installed properly, some equipment may be extremely dangerous.
For example, if a particular machine does not have the proper blowout protector attached it could allow for a serious fire or explosion if the employees hit a gas pocket during operation. These explosions are likely to kill employees who are operating the machinery as well as injure or kill others who are working nearby.
Equipment malfunction could result in a dangerous situation. Employees need to be trained to identify a failure and know what to do when one happens. Continued operation during a failure might result in an accident with serious injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provide some guidelines for the safe use of machinery and equipment used for oil and gas well drilling. Companies should each have a safety program in place that identifies hazards associated with machinery and equipment and provides a process for safe operation. A job safety analysis should be utilized to help implement safe operating procedures.
Barrier guards are necessary on machines that rotate such as pumps, drives, compressors, catheads, belt wheels, and conveyors. These protect workers from getting entangled in the machines or from being hit with debris from spin off. Blowout protectors block off areas so that pockets of gas are not inadvertently accessed which could result in a fire or explosion.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided and used by employees who work with dangerous equipment. Companies need to let workers know about any possible hazards and must provide training to ensure that safety measures are followed. A plan should be in place to handle accidents and emergencies when they happen.
Injuries as a result of using dangerous equipment can be serious or fatal. Possible injuries include burns, lacerations, broken bones, and amputations, among others. If a fire is sparked, fast action is needed to save lives and prevent additional injuries. A fire or explosion on an oil rig may be immediately fatal for those who are working close to the accident. Evacuation of the area will protect workers from getting hurt.
Serious burns and other injuries require immediate emergency medical treatment. A plan needs to be in place to remove injured workers and transport them to hospitals for care. Some types of injuries can worsen if the victim is not quickly treated. A life-saving plan needs to be utilized in emergency situations such as fires.
Companies are responsible for the safety of their employees. Failure to provide safe equipment, improperly managing or training employees and not having a safety plan in place could all be considered negligence on the part of the company. They know the dangers of the industry and therefore must take special actions to make sure they provide a safe working environment. The Jones Act protects employees from negligent actions of employers should they be hurt while working.