Offshore InjuryBlog

Ambassador Concerned with Filipino Offshore Worker Safety

Recent Tragedy Claims the Life of the 4th Filipino Oilfield Worker

After the fourth death of a Filipino offshore worker in the last year, the Philippine Embassy has expressed deep concerns for the welfare and safety of their countrymen working offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. This recent incident occurred just last Sunday evening when a 38-year-old welder from Manila was killed while working on dismantling an oil platform. Little is known about the exact details of the incident, though it is certain that this man plummeted to his death at least 100 feet from the platform. Filipino Ambassador to the U.S., Jose L. Cuisia Jr., explains that they will wait for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to investigate the death before they conclude whether or not the incident was related to the lack of safety onboard the platform.

Filipino Ambassador Expresses Safety Concerns

Ambassador Cuisia Jr. has expressed his fears that in just the last year, four Filipino workers in the offshore industry have lost their lives; he is concerned that the U.S. offshore facilities are falling short of the standard of safety that is needed to protect the workers. He has called on the U.S. government to closely investigate these matters in order to improve the safety of all workers--his countrymen in particular. Sources state that the recent worker was recruited to work in the U.S. by a maritime agency in the Philippines, though they have been irresponsive since the accident took place.

3 Filipino Workers Killed in November 2012

On November 16, 2012, a Houston-based company called Black Elk Energy experienced a fatal explosion on their West Delta 32 oil platform which claimed the lives of 3 Filipino workers and injured over 10 others. The explosion occurred early that morning, just off the shores of Louisiana on a shallow water oil rig. At the time of the explosion, the rig was not in operation though there were 26 contract workers on board conducting maintenance work, nearly half of them were injured as a result. When the explosion occurred, the CEO of Black Elk claimed that this platform was in its final stages of a project and that the fire was likely sparked during the construction.

One Year After West Delta Explosion: Safety Hazards Proven to be the Cause

Nearly one year after the fiery disaster occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, investigations found that the explosion was largely due to many poor decisions made on behalf of the Black Elk company according to one source. In fact, the BSEE reports that workers on that particular platform were terrified to report their safety concerns to their employers for fear that their job would be in jeopardy. The safety bureau director Brain Salerno shared in a statement that the company's failures "reflect their complete disregard for the safety of their workers on the platform and that their actions are the antithesis of what creates a safe environment for offshore workers." Black Elk Energy, after federal probes into last year's explosion, has been found at fault for the blatant disregard of safety for the workers as they did not communicate any risks or precautions to their employees in order to prepare them for the dangers at hand.

Federal investigators reported that the contractors on board for the maintenance of the platform did not follow the precautions necessary before beginning their welding project on November 16, 2012. These contractors failed to assess the pipes and ensure that they were clear of all flammable gas before they began their work with the hot welders. Because they neglected to do so, lives were lost. Black Elk administered their own investigations and attempted to prove that the fault of the explosion was entirely on the four contracting companies working on their platform at the time of the accident. At the end of the day, it was Black Elk's responsibility to make sure their working environments were up to code for health and safety. The federal investigators concluded that Black Elk is responsible for not "ensuring the contractors worked together to operate in a safe manner" and they also have stated the safety culture of the platform when the incident occurred was "poor at best."

Offshore Safety Risks

Hazards in the offshore industry are a part of daily life. Workers in this industry are well aware of the many risks as it is one of the more dangerous occupations around the globe. However, it is the responsibility of the employers to ensure they are fulfilling their roles as managers of work sites by providing employees with the needed tools and equipment for safety. When employers neglect to implement these necessary precautions, people are hurt and lives are lost. The consequences of these accidents can be detrimental on both the workers and the surrounding communities as seen in past disasters like the Deepwater Horizon incident.

According to Greg McCormack, the director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas, oil rig accidents are similar to that of a plane crash, "these events are low probability with a very high consequence." The Bureau of Labor Statistics shares that in 2008, there were 120 deaths for workers in the oil and gas industry, 21 of which were killed during extraction work on offshore rigs. Though these incidents are not as common as a car accident, for example, the possibility of injury and death is significantly higher. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from the years of 2003-2010, the fatality rate was seven times higher than that of all workers in the country at an average of 16 deaths per year.

Common hazards offshore include:

  • Workers are surrounded by highly combustible materials and gases
  • Heavy cranes are continually overhead
  • Long shifts/workers at sea for an extended period of time
  • Employers failure to properly analyze site hazards
  • Maintaining mechanical integrity on site (regular inspections, equipment replacement, etc.)
  • Lack of communication for operations and safety procedures (exit plans, shutdowns, etc.)
  • Failure to properly train and supervise workers
  • Workers must feel safe to report concerns for safety to their employers

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the number one way to prevent catastrophic events when working offshore is to have "an effective process for safety management and workplace safety culture." OSHA calls employers in the offshore industry to learn from their mistakes and implement the best safety culture they can for their workers.

Have you been injured in an offshore accident?

If you or a loved one have been injured in an offshore accident, look no further than Arnold & Itkin LLP today. Our firm has assisted countless individuals in obtaining the compensation they deserve after an offshore accident and injury. If you have lost a loved one in a tragic incident similar to the explosions mentioned previously, our firm will help you file a wrongful death suit in order to help you and your family financially after your loss. Please contact us today for more information, we will do whatever we can to care for you as our client and seek justice on your behalf.

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