The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report in May of 2013 that announced a shocking detail regarding industrial accidents. The leading cause for industrial accidents for oil and gas workers is not explosions, machinery accidents, or falls. Instead, the main danger in these incidents is helicopter accidents.
While oil rig explosions and machinery accidents receive large amounts of media attention, these incidents are not as common as the helicopter accidents that occur when transporting workers to and from the rigs in the middle of the ocean. Helicopter accidents accounted for 49 of 128 fatalities in the years 2003 to 2010. This means that they made up 75% of all transportation related deaths for oil and gas workers. Within this span of time, there were 17 helicopter accidents in the Gulf of Mexico. 11 of the helicopter accidents resulted in at least 1 worker death. 9 of the victims of these crashes survived the actual helicopter accident but later drowned.
The average American worker fatality rate is 3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. In the oil and gas industry, the rate is 27.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. The majority of these fatalities are because of helicopter accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Study noted that helicopter accidents are the leading cause of energy industry worker deaths, making up 51% of all deaths. Helicopters are commonly called in to transport people and move materials to and from the mainland. The CDC says that the number of active offshore drilling rigs decreased by 63% between 2003 and 2010, but the number of annual fatalities in the industry has remained stable. To reduce fatalities, employers need to ensure that all transportation safety guidelines are closely followed.
A common way to transport workers to and from offshore drilling rigs is by helicopter. Air travel is much quicker than traveling by boat; because helicopters have good maneuverability, they can easily land on rigs equipped with helicopter pads. While helicopters offer a quick, convenient way to transport offshore workers, there are safety issues to be considered. In fact, a study conducted in 2011 at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy reported 178 helicopter crashes between 1983 and 2009 that resulted in in 139 deaths.
The Hopkins study found that mechanical failure was the leading cause of offshore helicopter accidents. The loss of engine power was responsible for almost a third of the crashes that led to fatalities. The study also found that 20% of forced landings due to mechanical problems occurred in the water. The second most common contributor to offshore helicopter crashes was bad weather, which was responsible for 16% of the crashes.
Some of the most common contributors to serious offshore helicopter crashes include the following:
Helicopter accidents are widely used to transport maritime workers. Their maneuverability, speed, and ability to land on small platforms make them the most efficient method of transportation. However, being the most efficient does not necessarily mean the safest as well. In terms of the law, offshore helicopter accidents are particularly complex. In addition to potential challenges in recovering wreckage to be used as evidence, offshore helicopter accidents can potentially fall under several different federal and/or state laws and regulations.
Depending on a variety of factors, the following may be applicable to an offshore helicopter accident:
Additionally, helicopter accidents can have a large number of parties that may potentially be liable for the accident. Those parties can include, but may not be limited to the following:
If you have been injured in a helicopter accident, or if you lost a loved one in a helicopter accident, then you need to seek compensation. Talk to a lawyer today for more information about pursuing a case after a helicopter accident. You can also discuss your case with an Arnold & Itkin LLP attorney to learn whether you should seek workers' compensation or a personal injury settlement. Call today to learn more about how we can help you!
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