According to EHS Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics only started tracking worker deaths at oil refineries in 2011. Due to subpar recordkeeping practices by the federal government, it’s tough to tell how many people die at refineries each year.
Refinery workers face numerous safety challenges as they perform their duties each day. While oil is still the backbone of the US economy, thousands of refinery workers put their lives on the line each time they head to work. Are oil refineries as dangerous as they seem? In this guide, we’ll answer that question and others.
The Biggest Risks of Oil Refinery Jobs
During the process of oil refinement, crude oil is broken down into gasoline, petroleum, and oil-based products. The purification process is very dangerous, and while most positions require some level of human interaction, the dangers of working in a refinery shouldn’t be ignored. In the sections below, we’ll list some of the most common refinery risks that lead to the need for representation by an industrial accident attorney.
Explosions and Fires
For an oil-based product to be made from a crude oil base, hydrogen molecules must first be removed from that base. During the hydrogen extraction process, there’s an increased risk of explosion. Even the smallest spark can cause these extracted molecules to combust and catch fire.
Toxic Gas Exposure
As crude oil is broken down into various products, gases are released from the base product. The most common gases derived from crude oil include hydrogen, sulfur dioxide, and oxygen. If a worker isn’t wearing the right PPE (personal protective equipment), they might inhale these gases. With prolonged exposure to high gas levels, refinery workers may suffer from respiratory problems.
For crude to be refined into gasoline and other products, dangerous chemicals must be used. Prolonged exposure and the failure to wear the proper protective gear can cause serious damage to the skin and lungs, and it may also increase the risk of certain types of cancer.
For hydrogen molecules to be stripped from the crude oil base, refineries use coke (a coal product) to create heat. The base must be heated to 900 degrees Fahrenheit before the decomposition process begins.
This high heat poses severe risks to those working nearby, increasing the chances of deadly and disfiguring burns. Some of the most common reasons for burn injuries include being splashed with hot oil, touching the coker unit, or being near the oil when it combusts.
Determining Liability for a Refinery Accident
Under Texas law, refineries must carry workers’ compensation coverage that protects their employees from on-the-job injuries. However, contract workers aren’t always covered. Even if the person involved in the accident is an employee, a subcontractor, supplier, delivery driver, or manufacturer may be liable for their injuries.
In these cases, workers need the help of industrial accident lawyers to sue the at-fault party and recover the damages they need to recover from a refinery accident.
Understanding the Safety Risks of Oil Refinery Jobs
By learning about the dangers of oil refinery work, employees can better equip themselves to seek legal representation if they’ve been hurt on the job. With the right legal advice, it’s easier to get the compensation needed to move on after a refinery accident.