Working on oil rigs and platforms can be dangerous, with workers on 12-hour shifts handling highly combustible materials while surrounded by fast-moving heavy machinery and equipment. The threat of injury and death is ever-present for those working offshore. On November 16, 2012, the dangers oil industry workers face were manifested after an explosion and fire on an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The Houston-based company who owned the platform, Black Elk Energy, announced one month later that it was hiring a consulting firm to help investigate the cause of the accident.
Oil rig explosion
The accident occurred on an offshore oil and natural gas production platform on West Delta Block 32 in the Gulf of Mexico. The location is about 17 miles offshore Grand Isle, LA. Authorities suspect that the explosion and resulting fire on the platform occurred after workers were cutting into a line on the deck and sparks from the blowtorch hit a storage tank. The tank then exploded and caused a 2-mile oil sheen around the platform.
The Coast Guard reported that 22 workers were on the platform at the time of the explosion. Medical personnel airlifted 11 workers to nearby hospitals for treatment of their injuries. Two workers died in the explosion.
Black Elk Energy hired ABS Consulting to determine the exact cause of the explosion. Experts believe that one of the contributing factors to the incident was the fact that the platform had been shut-in since mid-August 2012.
Questionable safety record
While the company was quick to note that the explosion did not cause an on-going oil spill, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement gave Black Elk Energy notice that it must take steps improve the safety of its oil platforms immediately. BSEE officials noted that Black Elk Energy had 156 non-compliance issues across its 98 platforms in the Gulf of Mexico in 2012, up from 99 in 2011. In addition, at the time of the explosion, the company had not filed a work permit or exploration plan for the site.
Compensation for injuries
Those workers who suffered injuries as a result of the explosion may choose to pursue workers’ compensation benefits to help pay their medical expenses and lost wages while out of work and recuperating. The surviving relatives of the two workers who died may seek survivor’s workers’ compensation benefits. However, oil and gas companies and their insurers often seek to minimize payments for employee injuries. Those who have been injured in oil rig or oil platform accidents should seek the assistance of an attorney with a proven history of successfully recovering compensation in these complicated cases.