Oil Rig Accident Injuries – Burn Injuries
Fires and explosions aboard oil rigs can be quite intense. Add to that the fact employees are isolated, with nowhere to go but in the water. Workers have been reported to have jumped from many levels above the ocean to escape or extinguish the flames. Burn injuries can occur due to exposure to open flames or chemicals. Heated metal walkways and decking can be harmful as well.
Injuries suffered on an oil rig can range from minor, first-degree burns to third-degree ones involving all layers of the skin, to fourth-degree events that damage underlying tissues. The severity of a burn, however, can be complex and depends on factors such as:
- Exterior and interior burns, such as from heated air and gases that enter the lungs.
- Deep burns that cause organ damage, through skin loss or severe smoke inhalation.
- Damage to limbs so severe that amputation is required.
- Burn injuries that lead to deep infections and could lead to death.
- Burns to the face and eyes that cause blindness.
Long-term care and permanent disability can be considerations in these kinds of accidents. Severe burn injuries can leave a worker permanently disfigured, in constant pain, and unable to work again. They don’t even have to be that extensive to keep someone from being employed in the same line of work. A means to be compensated for lost wages, pain, and suffering, and other benefits may be sought, and the Jones Act provides for just such measures.
More Burn Causes
Workers must beware of more than just fires and hot surfaces. Welding, cutting, and other activities that involve heat put employees at risk. The friction alone from working with some heavy-duty equipment can cause burns that lead to permanent damage and death. Electrical equipment, its maintenance, the potential for failure, and exposure to corrosive compounds expose workers to dangers while on the job and can cause harm even if a fire or explosion doesn’t take place.
Steam is a risk too and found in many places on a rig. Injuries have also been caused by flash fires, which occur when there is an ignition source, such as a spark from an engine or compressor, and flammable gas present. These incidents can occur unexpectedly if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Proper monitoring, maintenance, and safety gear can prevent an accident from occurring or a person from sustaining serious burns.
There are many ways to prevent the conditions that lead to burns. Safe practices include:
- Safe storage of flammable and combustible materials.
- Separation of sources of ignition from potential fire hazards.
- Removal of ignition sources from near the wellhead.
- Storage of oily waste in metal containers that are covered.
- Use of safety-designated heaters on the rig.
- Keeping flammable liquids in conductive containers.
- Avoiding use of natural gas or other combustible substances to operate tools.
- Accessibility of non-tampered with firefighting equipment.
- A crew that is familiar with where this equipment is and how to use it.
- Designated fire watch when welding or cutting outside designated areas.
Burn injuries can be prevented, but the environment aboard an oil rig requires employees to be prepared at all times. Failing to abide by any regulation can lead to disaster. Therefore, experience and training are necessary to avoid harm to other workers and potential liability due to negligence under the Jones Act.