Legal options for workers injured in gas and oil well accidents in West Virginia

Oct 7, 2015

There have been six separate explosions for oil and gas pipelines so far in 2015.

Workplace safety should be the number one priority at oil and gas wells. Unfortunately, 2015 hasn’t started on a safe note for oil and gas well drillers, transporters and other industry employees. Instead, transportation accidents, explosions and fires, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and other dangerous working environments continue to plague the oil and gas extraction industry.

Recent West Virginia explosion highlights dangers

On January 26, a pipe in West Virginia ruptured – the fifth such accident so far in 2015. The accidents are raising concerns about the structural integrity of oil and gas infrastructure in the U.S. The most recent accident occurred near West Virginia’s border with Ohio, in Brooke County. Fortunately, no one was injured. The explosion occurred in a section of pipeline transporting ethane from shale deposits.

A day later, the National Transportation Safety Board released the results of an investigation of several gas pipelines, finding weaknesses in oversight of large pipelines by several distributors. As examples, the NTSB cited three explosions between 2009 and 2012, in which the gas companies did not conduct any inspections or tests of pipelines that could have led to a discovery of structural issues. The NTSB issued over 28 recommendations and improvements needed across the country in order to avoid “catastrophic gas transmission line accidents.”

These changes are slow in coming, however. Between 2003 and 2010, 823 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job, which is a fatality rate seven times higher than the rate of all other U.S. industries, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Many more were severely injured.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has also issued recommendations for land-based oil and gas well drilling. Violations of these recommendations can lead to an unsafe work environment for workers throughout the industry.

Legal options for injured workers

Oil and gas extraction companies have a legal duty to provide workers with a safe workplace. Workers who are injured because of an unsafe work environment, especially if the company did not follow safety recommendations, do have legal options available. It is also against the law for employers to retaliate against a worker who reports an injury or files a lawsuit alleging unsafe working conditions. The attorneys at Bailey, Javins & Carter, LC, have years of experience representing workers injured in coal mining accidents, oil and gas well extraction accidents, and other workplace injuries.