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Safety Hazards on Gas Well Rigs

Workers who are involved in oil and gas well drilling and servicing understand that they have a high-risk occupation, and accidents on the job site may result in serious injury or death. It is the responsibility of drilling companies, service companies, contractors, and the employees themselves to recognize and control hazards to prevent unnecessary injury and loss of life. If they fail to do so, devastating accidents may occur.

On Monday, five workers lost their lives in a gas well explosion and fire in Oklahoma. According to a CNN report, the explosion and resulting blaze consumed the rig, which was located 100 miles south of Tulsa in a rural area. Seventeen others at the scene were either unharmed or suffered only minor injuries.

This recent fatal explosion raises serious questions about the safety of gas wells and the potential harm that can come to workers on the rigs. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the majority of explosions and fires are caused by the ignition of flammable well gases, hydrogen sulfide, and vapors that are often released by:

  • Gas Wells
  • Trucks
  • Production or surface equipment (tanks, shale shakers)

Ignition of these vapors and gases can be caused by many different prevalent factors including:

  • Open flames
  • Electrical sources
  • Static
  • Lightning
  • Cutting tools
  • Welding tools
  • Frictional heat
  • Hot surfaces
  • Cigarettes and lighters

OSHA has released numerous documents on preventing the ignition of vapors, identifying potential ignition sources, and fire safety on drilling sites. It is the responsibility of the companies who send their workers to these dangerous sites to responsibly hire and properly train all of their employees. In addition, they need to make sure that safety protocols are followed at all times, and that care is taken at every turn to prevent deadly explosions and fires.

If the well owner, other contractors, or companies caused the explosion through negligence or recklessness, injured workers or the families of workers killed in the explosion or resulting fires may be eligible to pursue injury or wrongful death claims against the responsible parties.