As Louisiana offshore accident attorneys, clients often ask us, “What is the cause of most offshore accidents you deal with?”
While the answer may seem complicated on the surface, it is actually quite simple.
According to the popular oil and gas industry news website Fuel Fix, four of every five major offshore accidents are caused by human error. This is not too surprising, as we know people make mistakes—often.
The remaining 20 percent of offshore accidents are caused by mechanical or structural failures.
It is extremely unfortunate that so many offshore accidents are caused by human error. Yes, we understand that people are going to make errors from time to time, but many of these accidents result from negligence, carelessness, lack of attention, fatigue, lack of professionalism, or lack of knowledge about the task at hand.
The director of engineering and technology at Anadarko, an American oil and gas exploration and production company, recently summed up this industry trend with his statement at the inaugural event of the Ocean Energy Safety Institute.
“You can’t fix stupid,” director Jim Raney said. “What’s the answer? A culture of safety. It has to be through leadership and supported through procedures—a safety management system.”
The director admits that new safety regulations, as well as the oil and gas industry’s own risk and assessments in operation, won’t be beneficial unless the results from these assessments promote some type of change. Raney believes that too often, such reports are filed away as accomplishments themselves, without an action plan ever spawning from the findings.
We have seen risk assessment decision-making quickly climb up the corporate ladder over the past two decades. Our attorneys (Miles Matt being a former engineer in Louisiana’s oil industry) have also noticed that offshore oil production operations have become so complex for operators in recent years that they too need safety processes and procedures once associated only with offshore drilling.
By the Numbers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry (onshore and offshore combined) had a collective fatality rate seven times higher than all U.S. workers between 2003 and 2010. Out of every 100,000 employees in this field, 27.1 suffered a fatal accident, on average, and 51 percent of these accidents involved some sort of transportation.
Between 2003 and 2010, 128 fatalities occurred during offshore oil and gas operations, an average of 16 per year.
These numbers tell a terrifying story, but it’s not one you’re unfamiliar with. The offshore oil and gas industry is a dangerous one and should be treated as such. The CDC, in its report (linked to above), recommends that “employers ensure that the most stringent applicable transportation safety guidelines are followed.”
How Can the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry Reduce Human Error?
There are many factors that lead to human error when on the jobsite, be it in the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry or in any other labor intensive and technologically advanced workplace. These factors include:
- Lack of education about a particular task
- Lack of attention
- Physical error
Companies within this industry must take care to address each of these plights. Doing so could not only save them money lost due to accidents and mistakes, but it could also prevent the serious injury—or even fatality—of an employee.
Rest is critical to job performance. From white collar to blue collar, roughneck to CEO, everyone knows that your body needs a good night’s rest to perform at it’s best the following day.
The vice president of health of Shell Oil Co., Dwight Johnston, recently said that sleep is so important to workers that mattresses have been a large discussion point. Mattresses, we all know, are not created equal. If a better mattress means better sleep, which means better work (and less accidents), companies may need to invest in better beds for the overall safety of their employees.
Better food offshore could also be critical. A healthier diet can lead to better nutrition, and less fatigue.
Carelessness and Lack of Attention
Going to the same job and performing the same duties nearly every day can cause any employee to, over time, lose concentration. In an industry as dangerous as this, however, even one second of not paying attention could cost someone dearly.
The importance of staying focused needs to be a key point of emphasis in safety trainings, not once, but on a repeated basis. Enforcing this attitude of awareness—and discussing what happens when carelessness prevails—could save lives and prevent serious injuries.
Negligence occurs when someone knew—or should have known—about a possible safety issue, yet did nothing to resolve the situation. If you have been injured by the negligent actions of another, you certainly should seek compensation.
Accidents caused by physical error are going to occur in any industry, regardless of the amount of safety training and precautions. Of course these should be minimized, but they are nearly unavoidable, especially if you work at a particular job for a long time.
What Should I Do if I’m Hurt in an Offshore Accident
Safety should always be the number one concern of both employers and employees when offshore. When safety becomes a secondary thought, serious injuries (and even death) can occur.
You deserve compensation for your injuries. As medical bills pile up, compounded by lost wages, your family is suffering under financial stress.
If you are injured at work, contact an experienced offshore accident attorney for the help and guidance you need. A lawyer familiar with the offshore oil and gas industry can aid you and your family in your time of need.