There’s no question working in the oil and gas fields is a dangerous job. Still, most members of the public do not realize just how dangerous it is. In the nine years between 2008 and 2017, 1,566 workers died of injuries sustained while working in oil and gas drilling, and that’s almost exactly the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan during the same period.
Many of those killed in the oil and gas fields die similarly to their military counterparts – quickly, brutally, with many victims literally burned alive. While trauma accounts for most of the deaths, these workers are also vulnerable to succumbing to lethal toxic gases.
Exemption from OSHA Rules
The upstream sector of the oil and gas industry is exempt from many OSHA regulations. “Upstream” is a supply chain term in the industry, referring to raw material extraction or production. There are no safety management standards for upstream industries, which means these companies do not have to comply with procedures meant to prevent fires and explosions.
That is due to interference by President George H.W. Bush, a former oilman. The oil industry referred to their low injury rate as a reason the upstream sector should receive the exemption.
Injuries Not Reported
Although the number of fatalities is high, the oil and gas industries claim their injury rate is low. What accounts for the discrepancy? Most likely the fact that many injuries go unreported. There’s no low injury rate in these industries, but there is a low reporting rate.
A Marine Dies from Toxic Gas Exposure
Statistics are one thing, but behind each number is the loss of life and the devastating effects on loved ones. Gregory Claxton, 29, served two tours in Iraq as a Marine. He was the father of a three-year-old son. Claxton returned home to Texas after his military service and became a crude hauler for Twin Eagle Transport LLC of Houston.
The company contracted with Houston’s EOG Resources, one of the area’s largest exploration and production companies. Part of Claxton’s job was taking a sample from the tanks to ascertain the oil’s specific gravity. On Valentine’s Day, 2015, Claxton had climbed on a catwalk to take such a sample from a tank holding crude. After opening the hatch, he was hit with hydrogen sulfide (H2S). His death was instantaneous – his body appeared frozen at the spot.
Claxton’s parents are battling EOG in court. They alleged EOG did not post warning signs about the presence of this deadly gas, and their son did not receive any type of respiratory protection. Had their son, and Twin Eagle, been aware of the gas’ presence, the Claxtons’ claim the company would not have accepted the job, since they did not have the right safety gear for employees.
The Claxtons have already reached a settlement with Twin Eagle. Gregory Claxton’s father, Randall, who also worked as a crude hauler for Twin Eagle, said his friends in the oil fields have all been told that there was no H2S in the county in which his son died. “They’ve been lied to,” he says. Randall Claxton now works as a long-distance truck driver.
If you or a loved one are injured on a pipeline job, you may be eligible for significant financial recovery. Our Corpus Christi-based Williams PLLC oilfield injury attorneys represent injured pipeline workers in Texas, North Dakota, the Gulf of Mexico and across the nation. For a free, confidential case evaluation, contact Williams PLLC today. 361.885.0184 or Connect Online.