There are many dangers associated with working on or near oil rigs, including the potential for gas leaks, blow-outs, explosions, fires, chemical exposure and accidents with heavy equipment. One of the most deadly, however, may be a simple risk that is found on many work sites: the danger of falling objects.
An experienced oil rig accident lawyer in Louisiana understands the many risks faced by oil workers, including those shared with the construction industry, like the risk of fall injuries or accidents caused by falling objects.
The Dangers of Falling Objects on Oil Rigs
The danger of falling objects on oil rigs was clearly illustrated recently when a deadly accident in Andover, NY caused the death of a 79-year-old man at a Western New York oil well. The man was supervising a crew servicing a hydraulic well when the pulleys and cables on its mast snapped. The mast fell 40 feet, striking the 79-year-old. The Wall Street Journal reports that he died on the scene.
This was one of many incidents where falling objects put a worker at risk and across all industries in 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 233 workplace fatalities caused by workers being hit by falling objects. Falling objects are of particular concern on oil wells as well as on offshore drilling rigs where compliant towers and jack-up drilling rigs are frequently elevated at height.
Schramm’s Drill Rig Safety guide identifies the danger of falling objects as one of its top safety-related issues. Further, Chevron sees falling objects and dropped objects as such a danger that it has published a Dropped Objects Prevention guide. As this guide points out “even a small object falling from a height can cause serious or fatal injuries.”
Preventing Falling Object Injuries
To prevent falling object injuries, Schramm’s recommends:
- Inspecting fasteners each month and replacing fasteners that are chronically loose with anti-vibration washers.
- Tightening all overhead equipment to spec.
- Inspecting all components of rotation drives, including pump drives, winches, fan drives and fan balance.
- Inspecting all components of feed systems including sprockets, sheaves, chains and cables.
- Exercising caution when raising the mast.
Chevron also offers suggestions for reducing the danger of dropped objects. These suggestions include:
- Using secondary securing devices such as a secondary safety wire or safety net to secure components at their height if the primary securing method fails.
- Creating a dropped objects work group at each site and developing an inspection program to identify and mitigate the potential for dropped objects.
- Conducting regular hazard hunts to identify potential dangers.
- Establishing and reviewing procedures for tubular components.
Ultimately, the responsibility of preventing injuries from falling objects lies with the workers on the rig every day as well as with employers in charge of taking steps to ensure proper training and a safe working environment.
If you or a loved one suffered a Gulf Coast maritime or offshore injury, contact the Law Offices of William Gee III at 1-800-488-5227 to speak to a Louisiana offshore accident lawyer.