Oil Rig Accident Injuries – Electrocution
Employees who work aboard offshore oil platforms are responsible for many tasks. These include working with electrical equipment and systems. Generators, relays, control systems, and wiring are often encountered. A single faulty wire can electrocute a person if they come in contact with it. Additionally, the onboard environment makes corrosion very likely, which can degrade the integrity of electrical components. Chemicals used at the work site, and saltwater, are highly corrosive.
Even with regular inspections, protective insulation worn by workers, and replacement of damaged or worn out equipment, the risk of electrocution is there. A lack of maintenance can lead to the conditions that increase electrical hazards. Negligence on the part of owners, operators, and other crew members can as well.
Electrocution on the Job
Electrical injuries are often work-related, although they can happen in the home or due to lightning strikes. Contact with electricity can cause injuries on the surface or internally. They can range from skin burns to organ damage. A person who is electrocuted can go into cardiac arrest; they may also have muscle, nerve, and bone damage of varying degrees, depending on how strong the current the person exposed to was. The length of time of exposure is also a factor.
In general, healthy individuals are more likely to recover from an incident, but other factors are in play too. Also, the availability and promptness of treatment is a concern.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Electric Code defines high voltage as one that is above 600 volts AC. Any higher than that and contact with electricity can break human skin and damage organs. The Centers for Disease Control identifies different types of electrical injuries, including electrocution and electrical shock. Burns are commonly associated with exposure and can occur in varying degrees of severity.
Another risk associated with electrical injuries is a fall. Electric energy can be powerful. It can throw a person back, cause them to fall, or knock them unconscious, which on an oil rig is extremely dangerous. Contact with equipment can cause heavy items to fall on a person. A worker near the edge of a deck, walkway, staircase/ladder, or the edge of the rig can easily fall, which can lead to any number of other injuries. They can very well fall into the water and drown.
The Dangers of Electrical Energy and Prevention
Extreme energy sources aboard a rig can lead to electrocution and burns. Secondary injuries such as cuts, crushed bones and tissues, lacerations, and fractures may happen. Workers involved in such accidents have also faced amputations as well. To prevent such accidents and injuries, employees and others on the rig should follow proper procedures and address all maintenance needs. Training ensures those responsible for maintenance, lockout, and other tasks can do so safely and know how to isolate and control sources of electricity and energy.
If a worker’s, supervisor’s, or owner’s negligence leads to personal harm, the Jones Act offers protections for seamen, including maintenance and cure, and damages should a liable party be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.