Drilling for natural gas has been a large part of America’s economy for hundreds of years. Though a lucrative industry, natural gas extraction and fracking can be extremely dangerous. It is physically demanding, often requiring employees to work long hours doing tedious tasks. It results in thousands of injuries, illnesses, and deaths each year and, unfortunately, the longer someone works in this industry, the more likely they are to be hurt or contract a deadly disease.
If you or a loved one have been employed in drilling for, mining, or transporting natural gas and have been injured as a result of your employment, you may be able to seek compensation for your damages. The best way to find out if you have a case is to contact the natural gas injury lawyers at Colombo Law.
Types of Natural Gas Drilling Accidents
Many of the reasons workers are hurt or killed link back to negligence on the part of their employer or supervisor. These negligent actions can take various forms, including forcing employees to work long hours, failing to provide adequate safety equipment or procedures, failing to maintain drills and trucks to a safe standard, or not properly storing or venting explosive vapors.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of accidents and injuries we see as a result of natural gas drilling accidents:
Drill Site Fires and Explosions
Any time there is a significant amount of gas in the air, or gas that is under extreme pressure, there is a huge risk for a fire or explosion to occur. These explosions and fires can take the form of:
- Plant explosions/fires
- Underground gas line explosions/fires
- Gas generator explosions/fires
- Industrial vehicle gas explosions/fires
- Gas leak explosions/fires
- Flash fires
The injuries sustained in fires and explosions are often severe and can include painful second and third-degree burns, loss of limbs, and permanent scarring or disfiguration that may require extensive reconstructive plastic surgery and/or skin grafts.
Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica
Any time stone or rock is drilling, cut, or crushed, it can release crystalline silica. These particles are similar to sand but are nearly 100 times smaller and can make their way into the respiratory system of natural gas workers. When they do, they can cause serious and life-threatening diseases, including silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, and lung cancer. It is the employer’s responsibility to follow OSHA rules regarding crystalline silica exposure and provide adequate safety equipment to workers.
Chemical Spill Accidents
A wide variety of chemicals are used in the process of extracting natural gas. These chemicals are often incredibly toxic, and exposure to them can cause deformities and illnesses that cannot be reversed. Touching or inhaling vapors from these chemicals can cause various respiratory diseases, severe burns, and cancer. Since the symptoms of chemical exposure are not always visible or immediate, it is important to see a doctor and contact an attorney immediately after you’ve been exposed.
When an employee is forced to work long hours, they lose their ability to think critically, react quickly, and adapt to their environment. This kind of extreme fatigue can increase the chances of someone being injured after falling asleep on the job, mishandling chemicals, failing to follow safety procedures, of incorrectly operating machinery or equipment.
Bad Hiring Practices
The amount of injuries that occur when drilling for natural gas mean that it’s an industry with a fairly high turnover. Combine this with the natural gas company’s need to produce as much product in as little time as possible, and you have a recipe for disaster. This mindset leads employers to put new workers on the job ASAP without making sure to properly train them. Not only is this unfair and dangerous for new workers, but it is also dangerous to the experienced workers in the field and even the general public.
Old, Worn, Defective, or Misused Safety Equipment
The safety equipment that natural gas workers are required to wear is instrumental in protecting them from inhaling toxic fumes, being exposed to chemicals, and protecting them from a wide array of potential wounds. When this equipment is worn out, defective, or not used properly, it’s nearly worthless in stopping serious and life threatening injuries that should be able to be prevented.
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 places gas lines
- Inadequate maintenance of pipelines, machinery, and equipment
Types of Natural Gas Trucking Accidents
The gas that is drilled for has to be transported somehow, and this is typically accomplished by pumping it into a truck and driven to its destination. When this kind of vehicle is involved in a truck accident, it can can cause fires and explosions that can decimate everything in the immediate area.
Below are some common types of accidents and injuries that qualify as natural gas trucking accidents:
This is an especially common problem in the fracking industry. Because fracking uses water to extract oil or gas, trucks can make hundreds or even thousands of trips to a single well. This means more trucks on the road, more hours worked, and more accidents as a result. Not only can the frequency of trucking cause accidents, but poorly maintained roads and increased congestion can as well.
Just as a drilling worker can suffer impaired judgment when fatigued, so can a truck driver. Laws dictate that commercial truck drivers can only work and drive 14 consecutive hours before they are required to have 10 hours off. Unfortunately, some employers ignore these laws and make truckers work and drive much longer hours in order to make a bigger profit. Not only does this endanger the truck driver, but innocent people on the road as well.
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
- Overloading trucks
- Falsifying driver logbooks
- Failing to properly vet and train drivers before putting them on the job
It is important that your lawyer is extensively familiar with the safety rules and regulations that apply to the natural gas workers and truck drivers in order to properly build your case.
Natural Gas Industry Injuries
With so many different kinds of accidents that could occur under these volatile working conditions, there are just as many kinds of injuries that can occur. As natural gas industry attorneys, we’ve helped victims and their loved receive 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
- 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?
Even though it is a dangerous industry, natural gas companies are bound by many federal and state laws and have a reasonable duty to protect their employees and the general public from harm. When they fail to do this, and workers become victims, those victims may be entitled to compensation for their illnesses, injuries, and medical expenses.
Unfortunately, the party responsible for you or your loved one’s accident is most likely backed by an insurance company that will offer you a low-ball settlement in an effort to save money. This is not fair to you and, with the help of a natural gas industry lawyer, you may be able to file a claim or go to court to fight for the settlement you really deserve.
If you or a loved one have been hurt as the result of a natural gas trucking or drilling accident, contact the natural gas attorneys at Colombo Law. We offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis so you won’t have to pay us anything unless we reach a successful outcome in your case. Call us to get started at 888-860-14144.