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Texas oil field worker's death highlights dangers

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A 21-year-old man died last month after a drilling accident at a Texas oil field. While authorities have not yet disclosed the results of an investigation into this incident, his death is another reminder of the heightened risks of catastrophic injuries or fatalities in the oil and gas industry.

The current oil exploration boom is creating many new oil field jobs but the industry remains one of the most dangerous professions. Injuries can result from a number of sources in the oil and gas industry. At sites like Texas's Barnett Shale and Eagle Ford Shale reserves, the heavy machinery involved in drilling and maintaining wells often result in serious worker injuries. Oil and gas field injuries are also caused by various types of accidents including pipeline explosions, falls and heavy trucking crashes.

Although industrial accidents could occur under the best of conditions when heavy machinery and flammable substances are involved, other factors can ratchet up the likelihood of injuries. If an employer ignores or neglects compliance with federal and state regulations and safety standards, workers are more likely to encounter a dangerous situation. And in the context of a booming industry, companies could give into significant incentives to maximize profits at the expense of worker safety.

Worker's compensation requirements will cover some injuries but those remedies are often inadequate to cover all expenses. If another party other than the employee is responsible for the injury, an employee can generally recover a wider range of damages including, for example, compensation for pain and suffering. A number of other parties could be liable for a workplace accident, such as independent contractors and equipment manufacturers.

Source: CBS 7, "CBS 7 Exclusive: Mother Speaks Out About Son's Death On Robinson's Rig 8/14/12," Robert Guaderrama, Aug. 14, 2012

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