News report: Workplace accidents growing issue at oil fields

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The federal government has failed Texas' oil field workers. New information from an investigative report out of Houston shows that about two in five oil field deaths occur in Texas, with 65 victims dying from fatal oil-field workplace accidents in 2012 alone. If you thought the workplace fatality rate was abysmal -- and it is, with the worst numbers in a decade -- consider the other statistics. In total, 92 were burned on the job, 675 suffered broken bones, and 79 lost a limb.

A yearlong investigation conducted by a Houston newspaper shows that violations are identified in about 80 percent of workplace accident investigations. In most cases, the workplace deaths could have been prevented if better procedures or equipment had been in place. Those violations are only discovered if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration actually investigates; however, OSHA is only required to look into fatalities or incidents that injure three or more workers. That means that less than one percent of all oil-related accidents in Texas are ever reviewed by that federal agency.

The penalties for causing serious injury or death are shockingly low. In one 2010 incident, two victims suffered horrifying burns that eventually proved fatal. They were working at an oil field when fumes from a truck ignited and engulfed them in flame. One man lived for two months, the other for two years. The single citation in the matter was a $5,000 for a failure to provide flame-retardant apparel.

Even though the federal government may have failed the oil workers, the civil court system has not. Personal injury attorneys throughout the state of Texas are prepared to provide legal support for relatives whose victims have died because of employer negligence. These Texas families may have additional legal rights and options.

Source: Salon, "America’s most dangerous workplace: How the federal government fails oil field workers" Lindsay Abrams, Feb. 24, 2014

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