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Space Heater May Have Caused Oklahoma Oil Rig Explosion

image oklahoma oil rig explosion

Oil and gas drilling sites are dangerous for workers, especially when employers do not take the necessary safety precautions. There are numerous hazards involved in oil and gas well drilling and servicing activities. These include vehicle collisions, explosions and fires, falls, machine hazards, and ergonomic hazards (such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads.)

One danger in particular at oil and gas sites is the threat of fire or explosions. These usually occur due to the ignition of flammable vapors or gases. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, flammable gases are released from a variety of sources at oil and gas drilling sites, including trucks, production equipment or surface equipment such as tanks and shale shakers. And these flammable gases can ignite through various starters, including static, electrical energy sources, open flames, lightning, cigarettes, cutting and welding tools, hot surfaces, and frictional heat.

Companies need to take adequate safety precautions at oil and gas drilling sites because relatively innocuous items can ignite these flammable gases. Unfortunately, necessary safety precautions are not always followed. And as a result, workers can suffer serious injuries or die, as evidenced by an oil rig explosion last year in Oklahoma.

Investigators Look into Space Heater as Possible Cause of Oil Rig Explosion

In December of last year, two oil rig workers died after an explosion occurred at an oil rig near Coalgate, Oklahoma. Three other workers suffered injuries, and one of those injured recently died. At the time of the accident, the workers had apparently been drilling at 6,000 feet. According to reports, the rig had recently passed inspection a couple of weeks earlier. Pablo Energy, based in Amarillo Texas, owns the rig.

Initial reports and investigations could not confirm the cause of the explosion. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still in the process of completing its investigation. But, according to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the McAlester News-Capital, it appears that the investigation is focusing on a space heater used to keep workers warm on the rig floor. Workers on the floor reported the presence of the space heater and identified it as a possible cause of the fire.

Duty of Employer to Provide Safe Drill Worksite

Regardless of where one works, every employer has the responsibility to provide a safe work environment for its employees. This responsibility, however, is even more paramount at worksites that have an increased risk for accidents, such as oil and gas drilling sites.

Given the potential for serious injuries or death at oil or gas drilling site from an explosion, OSHA encourages employers to take various precautions to eliminate potential sources of ignition for flammable gases and liquids. These precautions include:

• Spark arrestors for internal-combustion engines;
• “NO SMOKING” signs wherever a flammable gas or vapor hazard exists;
• Placing “spark producing” equipment or facilities away from dangerous areas;
• Removing vehicles with catalytic converters from the vicinity of the rig; and
• Prohibiting open flames from the vicinity of the rig.

Contact a Texas Oil Rig Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury at an oil or gas drilling site because the company did not provide a safe work-site, contact a Texas oil rig accident lawyer to find out how to protect your rights. Zehl & Associates employs a team of experienced Texas oil rig accident lawyers who can help you recover compensation for your injuries.

Contact one Zehl & Associates’ a Texas oil rig accident lawyers today for a free consultation. You can call us at 1-888-603-3636. Or, you can visit one of our offices located in Houston and Austin.