Skip to Main Content

Oilfield Accidents and Fractures: What Every Oil & Gas Worker Should Know

Oil and gas workers face a very real risk of injury every day they’re on the job.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the industry’s workplace injury rate is seven times higher than all other sectors combined. While the physical consequences of oilfield accidents and explosions can include anything from minor scrapes and bruises to disfiguring burns and traumatic brain injuries, bone fractures rank in the top five injuries sustained by those in the upstream oil and gas industry.

Bone Breaks and Fractures in the Oilfield

Breaks and fractures can affect any bone in the body, including the arms, legs and extremities, the spinal column, and the skull. Specific treatment and recovery time depends on several factors, including the location and type of broken bone, as well as the health and age of the victim.

  • Oblique fractures: These fractures occur at an angle across the bone. Treatment usually involves realignment of the bone fragments and immobilization with a cast or brace.
  • Transverse fractures: These fractures run horizontally across the bone. Treatment often involves realignment and immobilization.
  • Longitudinal fractures: These fractures run vertically along the length of the bone. Treatment may involve immobilization or realignment, depending on the severity.
  • Greenstick fractures: These fractures are incomplete, with one side of the bone bending while the other side breaks. Treatment may involve realignment and immobilization with a cast or brace.
  • Comminuted fractures: These fractures result in the bone breaking into multiple fragments. Treatment may require surgery to realign the fragments and stabilize the bone.
  • Segmental fractures: These fractures involve two or more separate breaks in the same bone. Treatment may involve surgery to realign and stabilize the bone fragments.
  • Spiral fractures: These fractures result from a twisting force along the bone. Treatment typically involves realignment and immobilization.
  • Stress fractures: These are small cracks in the bone caused by repetitive stress or overuse. Treatment usually involves rest, activity modification, and sometimes immobilization.
  • Avulsion fractures: These occur when a small piece of bone gets pulled away by a tendon or ligament. Treatment may involve immobilization or surgery, depending on the extent of the injury.
  • Buckle fractures: These are incomplete fractures where one side of the bone buckles or bends but does not break completely. Treatment often involves immobilization with a cast or splint.

With some fractures, bone fragments stick out through the skin, or a wound penetrates down to the broken bone. This is known as an open fracture and is particularly serious because once the skin is broken, infection in both the wound and the bone can occur.

Most Common Causes of Fractures in the Oilfield?

There are many ways an oilfield worker might suffer a broken bone on the job.

Having successfully represented thousands of oil and gas workers against the largest drilling companies in the country, it’s been our experience that the majority of fractures and other oilfield injuries are entirely preventable and typically result from negligence on the part of a drilling company that chose to cut corners in their pursuit of profit.

  • Explosions: Oil and gas operations significant risk of explosions due to the presence of flammable substances. These explosions can happen during drilling, production, transportation, or storage of oil and gas. They pose a serious threat, causing devastating injuries and even fatalities. 
  • Fires: Fires can break out in oilfields due to various factors, including equipment malfunctions, electrical faults, or human errors. These fires spread rapidly and pose a severe danger to workers. 
  • Well blowouts: A well blowout occurs when the pressure control systems fail, leading to an uncontrolled release of oil, gas, or drilling fluids. This sudden release of high-pressure substances can cause explosions, fires, and injuries from flying debris. While well blowouts are relatively rare, the consequences can be catastrophic.
  • Equipment failure: Oilfield equipment, including drilling rigs, pumps, and valves, can malfunction or fail unexpectedly. These incidents can lead to accidents such as falling objects, entanglement, or being struck by heavy machinery. 
  • Falls: Working at heights is a common aspect of oilfield operations, and falls from elevated platforms, scaffolds, or drilling rigs can occur. These falls can result in fractures, head injuries, and other serious trauma. 
  • Transportation-Related Accidents: Oilfields rely on a significant number of motor vehicles in the course of normal operations, including trucks, heavy machinery, and service vehicles. In addition to being the leading cause of fatalities among oil and gas workersoilfield truck crashes and other transportation-related accidents are also a frequent cause of serious injuries, including broken bones.
  • Being Struck By or Caught in Machinery: Oil and gas workers may come into contact with moving parts or become caught in machinery, resulting in crush injuries, amputations, or other severe harm. 

Preventing Fractures and Other Oilfield Injuries

To prevent fractures and other oilfield injuries, the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration requires oil and gas companies to follow strict regulations to ensure the well-being of their employees:

  • Proper Training:  Oil and gas companies should provide comprehensive training programs to equip employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their jobs safely. This includes training on specific tasks, equipment operation, emergency procedures, and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Hazard Assessments and Inspections: Regular hazard assessments should be conducted to identify potential risks that could lead to an oilfield accident or explosion. Inspections should be carried out to ensure that safety protocols are being followed, equipment is in good working condition, and potential hazards are promptly addressed.
  • Safety Plan Communication: Companies should communicate safety plans and procedures to all employees. This includes providing clear instructions on emergency protocols, safety guidelines, and reporting procedures for accidents or near misses.
  • Protective Equipment: Appropriate PPE should be provided to oil and gas workers based on the hazards present in the workplace. This may include items such as hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, hearing protection, and respiratory protection.
  • Motor Vehicle Safety Measures: Oilfield companies should have safety protocols in place for employees who operate vehicles as part of their job responsibilities. This includes regular vehicle maintenance, driver training, and adherence to traffic laws and regulations.
  • Fall Protection: Fall protection measures should be implemented for tasks performed at heights. This may include the use of guardrails, safety harnesses, and proper training on fall prevention and protection techniques.
  • Machine Guarding: Machines and equipment should be properly guarded to prevent accidental contact with moving parts. Guards should be in place to protect employees from potential hazards and ensure safe operation.

Injured in the Oilfield? Call 1-888-603-3636 for a Free Consult with Our Undefeated Oilfield Accident Lawyers

Our Oilfield Injury Lawyers have won Billions — including the #1 largest oilfield accident recoveries in US history  — for workers who were seriously injured, catastrophically burned, and tragically killed in preventable oilfield accidents and explosions at drilling operations in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and across the US.

If you or someone you love were seriously injured in an oilfield accident or explosion, we’re ready to help. Please call 1-888-603-3636 or use our contact form to send us a confidential email.

All consultations are free, and because we only represent clients for a contingency fee, you’ll owe nothing unless we win your case.