Hurricane Season Poses Dangers to Offshore Workers

Bart Bernard Maritime AccidentEvery day in the United States, an estimated 10,000 men and women wake up on a drilling rig or platform in the Gulf of Mexico, where they brave treacherous conditions to do their jobs. Beyond the day-to-day hazards of working on an offshore pipeline, vessel or drilling rig, maritime workers also face the dangers of tropical storms and cyclones, which can rip apart offshore structures, leaving employees at risk for serious injury and death.

3 offshore workers die after storm evacuation

According to federal officials, more than 75 percent of the 4,000 offshore platforms in the Gulf were in the direct path of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, which destroyed more than 100 structures, and damaged some 457 pipelines. Fast forward three years when Hurricanes Gustav and Ike decimated 60 gas and oil rig platforms.

In 2011, Tropical Storm Nate ripped through the Gulf disabling a 94-foot oil vessel, owned by Trinity Liftboat Services – a Louisiana company based in New Iberia.  Three oil workers died and one was missing after the men called for help and evacuated the vessel. Maritime casualties like these raise the question whether energy companies are taking necessary precautions to protect the safety of their workers with timely evacuations.

The oil and gas industry claim that better weather data and more rigorous design standards have greatly improved hurricane safety for offshore workers and structures. Nonetheless, a recent CDC study found that the fatality rate for offshore personnel is seven times higher than the U.S. average.

Energy giants say their priority is keeping offshore workers and structures safe — particularly as stronger storms become more commonplace.

The destructive winds and rains of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which caused billions of dollars in damage and claimed dozens of lives, underscore the reality that 2017 will be one of the most active hurricane seasons in years, as forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Offshore worker safety concerns for 2017 hurricane season

Has the gas and oil industry taken a proactive approach to addressing hurricane risks, having learned valuable lessons from massive storms like Katrina, Gustav and Ike? While companies certainly take steps to protect their workers from severe weather, critics still have many concerns. Robert Bea, an engineering risk professor and former Shell employee, cautions that energy companies often put profits before safety.

Experts say the oil industry is simply reacting to storms, instead of preparing for them. When hurricanes threaten operations in the Gulf, it’s up to the companies to decide when to shut down and evacuate staff.  “Companies under financial pressure are more likely to take safety risks,” said Bea, “It’s called waiting for the next failure.”

Under Maritime Admiralty Law, offshore employers must take reasonable care in the evacuation of its workers during dangerous weather. A failure to fulfill this duty exposes companies to liability should injury or death result. With the 2017 hurricane season underway, and stronger storms forecast, offshore worker safety remains a paramount concern for many.

Bart Bernard – Louisiana offshore oil rig accident attorney

When hurricane evacuations are delayed to keep platform operations running, maritime workers are needlessly placed in harm’s way. Contact Louisiana offshore oil rig accident lawyer Bart Bernard if you or someone you love sustains serious or fatal injuries in a maritime accident. To schedule a free legal consultation in Lafayette or Baton Rouge, please call today!

Call me first. Click me first.

Additional “offshore oil rig injury” resources:

  1. ISHN, Ten years later: Oil rig safety lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina
  2. NBC News, Three Oil Workers Die After Evacuating Rig in Storm
  3. NOLA, Offshore oil and gas industry adapts, but risks remain 10 years after Katrina



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