Over the last several weeks, we have written blogs about the disastrous Deepwater Horizon incident. On April 20th, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig experienced an explosion that led to the largest oil leak in human history. Unfortunately, 11 workers lost their lives. Keep in mind that even much smaller offshore rig fires can cause injuries and deaths.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fires and explosions are among the main causes of workplace deaths and injuries on offshore oil rigs. Rig workers are constantly working around hydrogen sulfide and other combustive vapors and liquids.
In many cases, explosions and fires are caused by employer negligence. Employers may require workers to perform unsafe activities near flammable or explosive materials. Other cases may involve defective equipment used on rigs.
Fortunately, major explosions and fires are a rarity. However, there are still frequent minor explosions and fires on offshore rigs that can cause injuries and deaths. In the first five months of 2009, there were 39 fires and explosions on American offshore rigs!
Offshore Rig Fires and Workplace Safety
Offshore rig operators should always have fire-fighting plans in place. Rigs should have fire extinguishers, suppression agents and other fire-fighting equipment on hand in case of an emergency. In addition, equipment used on rigs should undergo regular inspections. As we learned with the Deepwater Horizon incident, equipment is subject to wear and tear.
Certain areas on rigs are at higher risk of explosion than others. For example, oil tanks and chambers contain combustible liquids and vapors. These locations should be treated with the utmost care.
Workers should always undergo proper training. This includes what to do in the event of an emergency. Workers should also have an understanding of common hazards that can lead to fires and explosions.
There is no good excuse for rig operators to ignore workplace safety. We have all seen what happens when workplace safety on offshore rigs is ignored.