Oil Rig Accidents – Toxic Chemical Exposure

Crude oil is one of the nation’s most important resources.  In 2016 the United States produced about 8.9 million barrels of oil per day, approximately 3.5 million barrels of hydrocarbon gas liquids and just over 1 million barrels of biofuels. Working on an oil rig a dangerous job –there are a number of hazards that must be avoided on a daily basis. Some of the most serious injuries can occur from exposure to toxic chemicals. Chemicals are needed for oil rig operations; however, they can be quite dangerous to humans, especially after long exposure or mishandling.

Toxic Chemicals in Oil Production

Chemicals are needed to produce oil, and some are formed as by-products of production. Many of these chemicals are toxic, and many can cause serious illness or physical harm, especially after long term exposure.

  • Benzene
    Benzene is one of the major solvents used in the oil production industry. People may be exposed to it by inhaling exhaust and gasoline fumes, through oil and coal combustion and by exposure to fracking liquids. It is a known carcinogen that has been linked to leukemia, breast, and urinary cancers. It causes the body to reduce production of immune cell function and is also a cause of sperm and chromosome abnormalities.
  • Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxides
    Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are air pollutants that come from oil production. They form particulate matter that is toxic when inhaled. It causes lung cancer and other pulmonary disorders. It could cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs which is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Formaldehyde
    Formaldehyde is commonly used in fracking. Exposure to it can be cancer-causing. It is linked to leukemia and is known to cause fertility problems, low birth weight, and spontaneous abortions. It can be emitted into the air or water.
  • Hydrofluoric Acid

    Hydrofluoric acid is an extremely dangerous acid that is used in fuel production. It is hazardous when inhaled and when it penetrates the skin. It can cause severe and sometimes fatal injuries and immediate and long term lung damage.

Other chemicals are often used in the refining process. Contact with any dangerous chemicals may cause immediate injuries such as burns and lung damage. Contact over a long period may result in injuries or cancers that aren’t immediately apparent. Only after months or years of exposure might a particular illness surface.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers are required to provide a safe working environment for all employees. When working with dangerous chemicals, that responsibility is even more apparent. The employer must ensure that chemicals are properly used and stored. Workers need to be properly trained on how to use them. Additionally, companies must protect employees from exposure by providing proper safety gear.  Adequate ventilation is necessary, and workers must be supervised at all times when working in hazardous conditions. Procedures have to be in place to handle an emergency due to chemical exposure.

The Jones Act protects maritime workers who were injured or have died as a result of negligence by employers. An attorney will review your situation and protect your rights to get compensation for injuries and damages due to exposure to toxic chemicals.

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