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The Most Common Oilfield OSHA Safety Violations  

Undefeated oilfield accident lawyers — the most common OSHA violations in oil and gas industry

Undefeated Oilfield Accident Lawyers

In a perfect world, oil and gas companies would prioritize safety over everything else — including profit — and comply with federal and state regulations meant to protect the hardworking men and women on the oilfield. 

Instead, oil and gas companies were issued over 337 citations last year by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for dangerous and often deadly infractions on the job site. 

Oil Companies Charged With $1.6M in OSHA Penalties in 2023

OSHA regulations are designed to mitigate the most common causes of oilfield accidents and explosions to help keep workers safe. When oil and gas companies fail to comply with these federal safety standards — whether unknowingly or (more commonly) by choice in an effort to cut corners — they not only risk lives, but end up with a citation or fine depending on the severity of the infraction.  

In 2023, OSHA issued nearly $1.6 Million in penalties to the oil and gas industry. In fact, over the past decade, OSHA has cited oil and gas companies for more than 10,000 safety violations — many of which were designated as “serious” infractions,  meaning they were likely to cause catastrophic injuries or fatalities.  

During this same time period, hundreds of oilfield workers died on the job, with 383 fatalities reported in the oil and gas extraction industry between 2018 and 2022, per U.S. Bureau of Labor’s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. And for every death, thousands more are injured.

The Most Common OSHA Safety Violations in the Oilfield

Sadly, the latest OSHA data shows that the most commonly cited safety standards in 2023 among oil and gas extraction, drilling, and support activities are just as deadly as ever. But the truth is many of the causes of these violations — and of the majority of oilfield accidents — are entirely preventable.

The common cited standards for oil and gas between October 2022 and September 2023 include:

1. Electrical & Other Hazardous Energy

Oilfield workers face significant electrical dangers on the job.  When equipment isn’t installed, maintained, or grounded properly, and workers go untrained, those on the job site increase their risk of exposure to uncontrolled electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, or other sources of hazardous energy, with electrocution and severe burn injuries likely. 

And yet companies were cited over 95 times for electrical or hazardous energy violations in 2023, including:

These citations are issued for a number of reasons such as exposing employees to live contacts or electric shock, failing to provide training or protection for workers using electrical elements, failing to mark all ground connections, failing to post operating procedures, or failing to strictly adhere to lockout/tagout procedures.

2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

To protect workers from the many hazards on the oilfield — including moving vehicles and equipment, falling equipment, and high-pressure lines — companies must supply workers with personal protective equipment that fits properly and offers protection to appropriate standards at no cost to workers.

Even still, companies were cited 44 times in 2023 for failing to meet PPE safety requirements, including:

With three out of every five on-site fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry due to struck-by, caught-in, and caught-between hazards — and with the heightened potential for explosions, exposure to toxins, and so many more accidents to occur — workers cannot afford to be ill-equipped when it comes to life-saving PPE such as hard hats, flame-resistant clothing, or respirators.  Shockingly, violations for respiratory protection were cited an alarming 26 times.

3. Unsafe Workplaces (OSH Act General Duty Clause)

Under Section 5a1 of the OSH Act General Duty Clause, employers must protect employees from any serious hazard once they’re aware of it, whether or not OSHA has specific rules to address the hazard or not. 

In fact, to cite 5a1, OSHA must prove:

  • The employer recognized the hazard
  • The employer failed to prevent exposure to the hazard 
  • The hazard had already or was likely to cause death or serious injury
  • A feasible and practical method to correct the risk was available

Alarmingly, this general duty paragraph was cited 24 times, meaning companies knew their working conditions were deadly, but continued to risk their workers’ lives. The average cost per violation was more than $15,000, the maximum penalty possible for serious infractions.

4. Confined Spaces

OSHA standards mandate that any confined space that contains or has the potential to contain a serious atmospheric hazard be classified as a permit-required confined space, tested before entry, and continuously monitored. 

Employees who perform work in these areas also need to be properly trained and aware of how hazards such as asphyxiation, ignition of flammable vapors, and entrapment can quickly increase in confined spaces.

But Permit-Required Confined Spaces (29 CFR 910.146) was cited 18 times in 2023, which means companies repeatedly failed to test or monitor these dangerous spaces or train employees, putting them at increased risk for asphyxiation ​​or exposure to hazardous chemicals, toxic vapors, and flammable gas when entering a wellhead.

5. Fall Protection

OSHA standards require fall protection to prevent falls from the mast, drilling platform, and other elevated equipment on an oilfield. Yet a study of fatal falls among derrickmen conducted by the National Institute of Health found that 86% of victims were not using appropriate fall protection when they fell.

Unsurprisingly, companies were cited 20 times for failing to protect workers from a fall or a falling object, including:

Additionally, failure to guard openings, ladders, open pits, floor holes, and stairs may also lead to severe injuries or worse due to a fall or falling object — and these “walking working surfaces” regulations were also cited over 22 times

6. Hazardous Materials & Hazard Communication

OSHA requires all employers to provide information and training to their employees about the hazardous chemicals to which they may be exposed at the time of their initial assignment and whenever a new hazard is introduced into their work area — and there are a lot of hazards. 

Flammable gasses and liquids, including well gasses, vapors, and hydrogen sulfide, can be released from wells, trucks, and equipment.  And any ignition source — from cigarettes to cutting and welding tools — has the potential to trigger a fire or explosion should it come into contact with one of these substances.

Employers are also required to develop and implement a program of recordkeeping and labeling to protect their workers. 

Sadly, oil and gas continues to have a terrible track record when it comes to preventing fires and explosions. And in 2023, companies were cited over 28 times for reasons that would increase the chance of fires, explosions,  severe burn injuries, or death on the job site:

Though it may seem obvious, failing to properly maintain or provide a portable fire extinguisher can mean the difference between a severe burn injury or a fatality after the unimaginable happens. Yet, this citation was handed out 9 times.

7. More General Industry Violations

Additionally, oil and gas companies appeared to rack up excessive violations across nearly every aspect of workplace safety, including:

  • Medical services and first aid (15 citations) which requires someone on-site to be trained in rendering first aid and to have first aid available as well as flushing stations for the eyes and body.
  • Reporting fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye as a result of work-related incidents to OSHA (14 citations), which as it sounds, requires companies to admit when things go horribly, tragically wrong.
  • Powered industrial trucks (8 citations) which require training, maintenance, and safety protocols for large trucks and 18-wheelers — truck accidents account for 50% of all oilfield deaths, according to the CDC.
  • General requirements for machines ( 8 citations), mechanical power-transmission apparatus (7 citations), and use of equipment (6 citations), which require safety measures for operating heavy equipment, belts, and rotating parts included guard barriers, electronic safety devices, and more.

Oil & Gas Companies Refuse to Accept Responsibility After Serious Oilfield Accidents 

The oil and gas industry’s track record for safety has never been worse — and there has never been more at stake.

With the industry booming and jobs growing, hundreds of thousands of workers now make a living in the oil patch, including an estimated 118,200 workers in extraction and another 248,100 in support services.  These jobs pay well, but the continuous industry-wide disregard for safety makes them deadlier than ever.

Sadly, it’s been our experience that a vast majority of oilfield accidents, explosions, and injuries are entirely preventable and usually result from an oilfield operator’s or contractor’s decision to ignore safety regulations in an effort to rush the job and save money.

When the unthinkable occurs, and your employer tries to deny responsibility, Zehl & Associates is here to fight for you:

  • We stand up to these corporate giants and their legal teams every day
  • We make sure that you receive the justice and FULL compensation you deserve
  • We force the companies to be safer so that accidents like this don’t happen again

And we don’t just win — we set records.

Undefeated Oilfield Accident Attorneys: Call 1-888-603-3636 for a Free Consult

With Billions won, including the #1 Largest Oilfield Accident Settlement and the #1 Largest Oilfield Burn Settlement in U.S. History, our Undefeated Oilfield Accident Lawyers understand the complex OSHA regulations that govern the oil and gas industry and how to use them to recover the maximum compensation possible for injured oil field workers. 

If you or a loved one were injured or tragically killed in an oilfield accident or explosion, you need to act quickly to protect your rights and your future. Please call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here to submit a confidential email through our “Contact Us” form.

Your consultation is completely free, and because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you won’t pay anything unless we win your case.