San Antonio Legal Blog

Oil field accidents: the tragic causes

Any area with an abundance of pipelines and oil wells can become a hazardous site in certain circumstances. Disasters such as oil drilling platform explosions are rare in Texas, but experts warn of other dangers to avoid in such industries.

Explosions are rare in the oil industry, but do occur along with other oil field-related accidents. San Antonio Express News covered major oil field accidents in 2015 that claimed the lives of over thirty workers in Texas. The article notes of the immense danger of oil fields and the likely fatal consequences, pointing out that Texas counted for half of the country's oil field deaths in 2014. In addition, out of the 615 oil field workers who died between the years 2010 and 2014, 44 percent of those workers were Texas residents. One factor experts point to is the increasing volume of workers in oil fields; more people inevitably result in a higher volume of accidents. Safety violations also lead to a substantial amount of workplace fatalities, but the leeway allowing OSHA to penalize companies is limited.      

A crush injury on the oilfield can crush your financial stability

An emergency room physician in Texas who served in Iraq as a U.S. Army major says the work he does in peacetime prepared him for war. He deals with countless injuries -- some of which follow car crashes and accidents on construction sites. However, he says that regardless of whether the oil industry is booming or in a downturn, crush injuries among oil field workers are always prevalent.

If you work on the oilfields, he says you might significantly lessen your chances of harm if you try recognize the potential risks ahead of time. This could help you to better assess any risks and use common sense whenever you encounter dangerous situations.

Road rage risks and how to avoid them

During high traffic times on the streets and highways of San Antonio, it may be easy for drivers to get exasperated and angry at delays and the conduct of other drivers. Acting out through driving behaviors may seem like a natural response. In fact, according to statistics reported by The New York Times, 80 percent of motorists admit that they were guilty of aggressive driving such as tailgating, honking their horns and yelling at other drivers.

While these angry gestures may simply express a person’s frustration, they could also be dangerous. Cutting off other vehicles in traffic or following too closely raises the risk of a crash. Not only that, one study revealed that with 126 incidents of driver confrontations involving guns between 2014 and 2016, Texas was number two in the nation.

Reducing risks from flammable vapors and heavy machinery

Knowing how to safely use equipment and identify hazards on the oil fields of Texas is essential. Even a small slip-up could cause you serious injuries, but the circumstances that lead to an accident could be beyond your control. The legal team at The Law Offices of Miller & Bicklein, P.C., understand the dangers you face, and how to investigate incidents to determine all the underlying causes.

The National STEPS Network notes that when it comes to fire risk assessments, your employer has a number of responsibilities to ensure that you are safe. Fire risk is particularly high in the oil fields because of the flammability of vapors and the use of machinery that may produce heat or sparks. This includes identifying any areas where vapors may be released, such as flowback and production tanks, wellbore and frac tanks, as well as locations where motorized equipment is necessary, including vehicles. Boundaries should be established wherever possible to keep these two as far apart as possible.

Impact when Texas employers opt out of workers' comp

A Texas employer that decides to opt out of the state’s workers’ compensation system is commonly referred to as nonsubscriber. Although injured employees of nonsubscribers cannot file claims with the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, those employees are still afforded certain statutory safeguards under Texas law, so long as they have not waived those protections in an employment agreement.

In 2012, the Texas Department of Insurance, which is the agency authorized by Texas law to regulate the state’s Division of Workers’ Compensation, reported that 33 percent of employers are nonsubscribers of workers’ compensation. In that same study, the TDI found that about 1.7 million Texans worked for nonsubscribing employers. This amounts to roughly 19 percent of employees in Texas.

Returning to work after an on-the-job injury in Texas

While an employee is recovering from a workplace injury, a doctor may determine that he or she cannot safely perform the former job duties. However, that is not to say that the person is unable to work at all. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, when employees go back to work under medically acceptable conditions as soon as possible, they are less likely to suffer from depression or develop further issues that can hinder recovery.

The TDI explains that many employers have return-to-work programs. A doctor evaluates the employee’s medical condition and determines which functions he or she may be able to do without causing any safety issues or health problems, then communicates the limitations and abilities to the company. The employer can then either allow the worker to do his or her job duties that fall within the description, or may offer the worker a different job during recovery. This is known as a bona fide offer of employment.

Are you sharing the road with a tired truck driver?

The size and weight of 18-wheelers present enough of a concern to drivers in smaller vehicles. Many people either give semis a wide birth or pass them quickly in order to avoid them. Looking behind you and seeing one barreling toward you may cause you to pick up your speed.

Most truck drivers remain diligent and vigilant behind the wheel because they understand that they alone keep the large vehicle in check. The slightest mistake could lead to disaster. That's why it's crucial for truck drivers not to get behind the wheel when fatigued. One study found that every year 78,000 injuries and 1,200 deaths occur on the country's roadways due to tired truckers.

Buried alive: the deadly effects of a trench cave-in

Construction workers in Texas face some dangers that are unique to their industry. According to the Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, one of these hazards that consistently causes on-the-job fatalities, trench collapse, is on the rise.

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration has strict standards for trenches that contractors should use to keep workers safe. In particular, there are a variety of systems that may be used to prevent cave-ins if the depth of a trench is more than five feet. A recent San Antonio accident that is currently under investigation seems to indicate that this OSHA regulation was not followed. In a trench eight feet deep, a worker was trapped by clay soil.

Some Texans unhappy with new ban on texting behind the wheel

Texting and driving raises the risk of motor vehicle crashes exponentially, but these accidents continue to occur in Texas, as well as across the United States. Looking away from the road and taking one or both hands off the wheel can be deadly, but a cognitive distraction can occur even when a person appears to be in full control of the vehicle.

State legislators have passed a law that bans certain uses of cellphones while driving. However, many cities in Texas have already enacted municipal ordinances that impose stricter usage limits, including a ban on all cellphone use behind the wheel. The new legislation, which goes into effect Sept. 1, does not affect those laws. Although he signed the bill, Gov. Greg Abbott has expressed disapproval of this fact, wanting it to override others.

Is safety an employer priority? Construction workers say no

The culture on your jobsite determines many aspects of your day-to-day life in Texas. According to a recent survey by the National Safety Council, construction workers across the country believe the companies they work for make productivity the primary value, rather than developing an environment that puts safety first.

Construction is one of the industries with the highest complaint of this issue. If your employer rates your performance based on output rather than your adherence to safety standards, you join the 67 percent of survey participants in your field with this response. This news may not come as a surprise, since over 900 construction workers died in 2015—almost 20 percent of the total work-related fatalities across all industries that year. Like 47 percent of the survey respondents, you may also worry that reporting a safety hazard could lead to retaliation.

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