Some professions have a strong association with risk on the job. Firefighters, professional fishermen and construction workers are professionals with a well-acknowledged risk of injury at work. The oil and gas industry also has a reputation of being a very dangerous employer.
Especially for workers at offshore facilities, working in the oil and gas industry can mean significant personal risk. They handle dangerous chemicals, work in perilous conditions and are always at risk of a fire or explosion.
There are now federal agencies that help oversee safety issues in the oil and gas industry, but most experts still claim that injuries and deaths among oil and gas workers remain seriously underreported. Just how dangerous is it to earn a paycheck on an offshore oil rig?
What the statistics say
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) exists primarily to facilitate safer and clearer offshore oil and gas facilities. However, the BSEE paints an unrealistically rosy picture of the industry, often underreporting worker fatalities by as much as half. For example, between 2005 and 2019, a significant portion of the known offshore fatalities that occurred didn’t fit their rules for reporting, so they weren’t included in the data.
Still, even with the low figures, the data provided by the BSEE is worrisome. In 2020, there were 65 fatalities that met reporting requirements. There were another 160 worker injuries. Many of these affected workers and the surviving families of those who died would have to go to civil court to get compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and other costs.
Worker claims are harder in the oil and gas sector
Unfortunately, if you get hurt on an offshore platform, you don’t have the option of just filing a straightforward workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation has state-by-state rules and therefore does not apply to maritime employees, even if your employer has domestic facilities in the state where you live.
You will need to pursue a claim under the Jones Act, which will involve taking your employer to court and demonstrating that they were negligent or violated workplace safety regulations. Identifying your risk factors and knowing what protections you have could make a major difference for you as an offshore worker.