West Virginia is home to many different kinds of mining operations. Though it employs many individuals, the natural gas drilling industry is, by far, one of the most dangerous when it comes to employee health and safety. Working in this industry is not only risky, but demanding. It requires employees to work long hours doing the same task over and over again. The exhaustion and fatigue that comes from this results in countless injuries, illnesses, and deaths every year. In fact, workers are more likely to be hurt or develop an occupational illness the longer they work in natural gas. You may need to a natural gas injury lawyer if you have been injured on the job.

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Whether you drill, mine, or transport natural gas, if you are injured on the job, you may be able to get compensation for your damages. You can find out if you or your loved one have a natural gas accident case by contacting the Morgantown natural gas injury lawyers at Colombo Law and scheduling a free consultation.

West Virginia Natural Gas Injury Statistics

Since mining operations are prevalent here, it’s no wonder that West Virginia is amongst the top ten states when it comes to the number of fatalities suffered each year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), oil and gas extraction are, on average, responsible for 70 percent of all mining industry fatalities. The most recent data from BLS shows that between 2007 and 2011, there were 14 fatalities in West Virginia. While this may not seem like a lot, each one of these people left behind families who loved them and suffered emotional and financial distress as a result of their loss.

Types of Natural Gas Drilling Accidents

Negligence is one of the biggest factors in natural gas accidents. Often, employers or supervisor are to blame for making employees work long hours, failing to implement safety procedures, providing safety equipment that is not up to par, failing to perform maintenance on drills and trucks, or improperly venting explosive vapors.

As Morgantown, West Virginia natural gas injury lawyers, we often see accidents and injuries caused by:

Drill Site Fires and Explosions

These accidents can occur when gas that is in the air or under pressure causes a fire or explosion. These can occur as:

  • Plant explosions/fires
  • Underground gas line explosions/fires
  • Gas generator explosions/fires
  • Industrial vehicle gas explosions/fires
  • Gas leak explosions/fires
  • Flash fires

Many explosions and fires result in severe and painful second and third-degree burns. They can also cause victims to lose limbs and suffer permanent scarring and disfiguration that requires reconstructive plastic surgery and/or skin grafts to repair.

Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

When stones or rocks are drilled, cut, or crushed, they can release a particle called crystalline silica. This particle is similar to sand but about 100 times smaller, which allows it to easily enter the respiratory system. When this happens, workers can suffer potentially fatal diseases, like silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, and lung cancer. Employers have a due to follow OSHA rules regarding crystalline silica exposure and ensure that workers have the safety equipment they need to prevent deadly exposure.

Chemical Spill Accidents

Toxic chemicals are often used in the process of natural gas extraction. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals can cause workers to suffer irreversible illnesses and deformities. It can also cause respiratory diseases, burns, and even cancer. Chemical exposure may not result in immediate symptoms. In some cases, the victim can be suffering from an illness that cannot be seen by the naked eye, so it’s crucial to see a doctor ASAP after chemical exposure.

Employee Fatigue

Employees who work for too long may not be able to think critically, react quickly, or adapt to their environments as well as they could if they were rested. Fatigue can lead someone to fall asleep on the job, mishandle chemicals, ignore safety procedures, or use machinery or equipment wrong, and any of these mistakes can result in an injury.

Poor Hiring Practices

Many mining and drilling companies are only interested in one thing: making as much money as possible in as little time as possible. These greedy tendencies can lead them to hire new workers and get them on the job quickly, often without properly training them. Inexperienced workers can hurt themselves or someone else, all because their employer was more interested in saving time and money rather than lives.

Old, Worn, Defective, or Misused Safety Equipment

Buying new safety equipment also costs employers a lot of money, so it’s much cheaper to push old equipment to its limits or make use of defective or faulty equipment. Unfortunately, this practice, or the practice of misusing equipment, mean that employees aren’t protected from things like toxic fumes or dangerous chemicals.

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 Additional Causes of Natural Gas Drilling Accidents

  • Unsafe working environment
  • Failure to follow laws, rules, and safety regulations
  • Falls from heights
  • Lack of adequate supervision
  • Poorly constructed or placed gas lines
  • Inadequate maintenance of pipelines, machinery, and equipment

Types of Natural Gas Trucking Accidents

All of the gas that’s collected in mining efforts has to be transported. Usually, it’s pumped into a truck and driven to its next location. Thousands of these shipments make it safely to their destination each year, but those that are involved in truck accidents often result in devastating fires and explosions.

Some common causes of Morgantown natural gas trucking accidents include:

Excessive Traffic

Often in mining, and especially in the fracking industry, trucks must make hundreds or even thousands of trips to the same well every day. This results in more traffic, more trucks on the road, and more tired employees. Add poorly maintained roads and traffic congestion to this equation, and you have a much higher risk of accidents.

Driver Fatigue

Trucking laws say that a truck driver can only work for 14 hours at a time before they must be given 10 hours off. Many employers, however, will ignore these rules and force drivers to work much longer hours, even if they are fatigued. This puts the truck driver at risk for causing an accident and injuring innocent people on the road.

Additional Causes of Natural Gas Trucking Accidents

  • Failing to properly maintain and service trucks
  • Creating shell companies to avoid adhering to safety laws
  • Using exemptions that are not applicable to certain vehicles
  • Speeding
  • Overloading trucks
  • Falsifying driver logbooks
  • Failing to properly vet and train drivers before putting them on the job

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Natural Gas Industry Injuries

Depending on how natural gas drilling accidents occur, they can cause a variety of injuries and illnesses. Fortunately, if you were injured while working in the natural gas industry, you may be able to seek compensation for things like:

  • Burn injuries
  • Chemical exposure injuries
  • Hearing loss or ear damage
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Injuries resulting in crushed or lost limbs or digits
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Paralysis
  • Occupational illnesses
  • Lost wages
  • Medical bills
  • Therapy and rehabilitation costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Wrongful death

Why Should I Hire a Natural Gas Injury Lawyer?

Natural gas companies and the people who run them have to adhere to the state and federal laws that are designed to protect their employees. Failure to do this means that their employees can be hurt or killed and either the injured employee or their surviving loved ones may be entitled to compensation.

Big drilling companies often have a team of insurance adjustors and lawyers to protect them against injured employees looking for compensation. These companies will do whatever they can to avoid paying the injured worker what they deserve. The good news is, injured workers can hire natural gas injury lawyers to help fight for their rights.

At Colombo Law, our Morgantown injury attorneys are well versed in the rules and regulations that apply to natural gas workers and truck drivers. We know how to use these laws to fight for the money you need to cope with your injuries and expenses. Plus, we work on a contingency fee basis, so you won’t owe us any attorney fees unless we win or successfully settle your case. Call Colombo Law at 304-906-2815 to schedule a free consultation and get your case started.