Oil field accidents can happen quickly and often result in catastrophic injury or death. Understanding what causes fatalities in the oil field can help workers better protect themselves, identify the types of negligence that can lead to serious incidents, and help victims and their families understand their legal rights.

The oil extraction industry has been a part of life in Wyoming since the 1880s, consistently ranking the state among the nation’s top oil and gas producers. While this industry provides many high-paying jobs and forms an important part of the local economy, it still remains one of the most dangerous working environments. Workers face long hours and exposure to hazards while operating heavy machinery – factors that significantly increase the risk of accidents and injury.

The oil and gas industry has work-related fatalities at a much higher rate than nearly any other industry in the United States.

The oil rig accident lawyers at the Fitzgerald Law Firm have helped clients achieve justice throughout the United States across a range of serious personal injury claims for over forty years. Cases involving oil field injuries are complex, often involving multiple parties, which makes it vital to secure experienced representation. We gather evidence, interview eyewitnesses, manage insurance claims, and ensure a thorough investigation. Our founding partner, Jim Fitzgerald, worked in the Wyoming oil fields and learned about the hazards involved firsthand, contributing to our team’s decades of experience handling oil field accident claims.

Continue reading to learn more about how to receive fair compensation if you have been injured or a loved one is the victim of wrongful death.

Faulty Equipment

Faulty or poorly maintained equipment is a common cause of injuries and death in oil fields. The specialized machinery used to extract oil and gas requires frequent inspections and
maintenance to ensure safe operation. Leaks and corrosion can lead to equipment failure, which, in turn, can cause gas leaks, chemical fires, or blowouts. Given the dangerous conditions in an oil field, a malfunction or breakdown is not simply an inconvenience. It may result in catastrophic injury or loss of life.

As employers are responsible for the proper maintenance of their equipment, manufacturers must ensure the equipment they produce is safe to use. When an accident results from a manufacturing defect, you need an experienced attorney who can help you conduct an in-depth investigation to determine which parties are liable. Negligence in an oil field can arise from careless acts of manufacturers, owners, operators, and management.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of injury in oil fields and oil fields. Oil fields use large trucks and industrial equipment to transport materials to and from job sites, lift and load heavy materials, and drill. According to the CDC, vehicular accidents result in more than 40% of all oil field fatalities. Crashes caused by speeding or untrained drivers, for example, may lead to serious injury or death. Oil rig operators must also ensure that vehicles are properly inspected and possess the proper licensure.

Slips and Falls

Employees in an oil field must often work on platforms and equipment situated at considerable heights. Unsafe surfaces caused by oil, debris, and other compounds pose a potential dangerous threat to workers hurrying under deadlines.  If the proper safety precautions are not in place or not followed, these conditions can lead to serious injuries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that slips and falls are also one of the industry’s leading causes of death. Most of these deaths occur when drills are being assembled or dismantled, or when workers are inserting or removing drill pipe from the wellbore.

Flammable Chemical Exposure and Environmental Factors

The nature of an oil field creates a dangerous environment. Fire is always a potential danger. Workers regularly encounter chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and hydrogen fluoride. These chemicals can be extremely hazardous if not handled correctly, requiring proper training and critical protective gear. Exposure to environmental factors like silica has been shown to cause long-term health complications. In addition, the oil and gas being extracted are highly volatile compounds, with the potential to cause fires or explosions. Employers are required by law to provide their workers with the necessary protective equipment to guard against these and other dangers, maintain safe working environments, and provide thorough training for all employees.

Failure to Adhere to Safety Regulations

The dangerous conditions present in oil fields have prompted many federal and state regulations designed to protect workers. The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is charged with enforcing these standards, which the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services works on at the state level.

Companies operating oil fields are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of their employees and may be liable if they fail to adhere to all applicable rules and regulations. Such failures often result in injuries or death of workers and employees of other companies on site. Companies that ignore these standards or compromise on safety to maintain productivity can be held liable if their negligence causes an injury or fatality. In these cases, it is important to seek the help of a highly experienced personal injury firm with specific experience handling oil field accidents.

Poorly Trained Workers

The specialized machinery used in the oil and gas industry requires extensive training. Workers who have not received adequate training pose a serious risk to both themselves and others. The oil field operator bears a legal responsibility to ensure workers follow the appropriate regulations and procedures, understand the hazards they face on the job, and operate machinery in a safe manner. Careless mistakes can lead to serious incidents, like explosions, fires, or falls.


Oil rig workers frequently put in long hours performing tasks that are physically demanding. Shifts, called tours (pronounced “towers” in the oil field) can last eight to sixteen hours or more. Workers may work every day for a week or more before a break. In addition, bonuses and overtime pay incentivize employees to work extensive hours. This can result in workers becoming too fatigued to operate large trucks and other machinery safely. The CDC offers this advice for oil field operators on how to prevent fatigue at work.

Oil Field Accident and Fatality Attorneys

No one goes to work expecting tragedy. Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry experiences a fatality rate seven times that of most other industries. If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in an oil field accident, it’s crucial to hire experienced representation as soon as possible. With decades of experience behind us and a real-world understanding of the logistics and damages of working in the oil field, the Fitzgerald Law Firm can help you seek just compensation and begin to move forward.

Contact our personal injury firm today to discuss your case.