Michael Lyons of Lyons & Simmons, LLP is currently representing the family of an oilfield worker who lost his life in the January 2018 Patterson-UTI Rig 219 fire near Quinton, Oklahoma. The catastrophe took the lives of five workers, including Parker Waldridge, the husband of Mr. Lyons’ client.
Mr. Lyons is featured in a comprehensive investigative report from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), and published in The Texas Tribune, that takes a comprehensive look at the avoidable dangers of the oilfield industry and the profits-first culture that has led to the increase in the number of fatal incidents such as the Quinton accident.
The blame for these tragedies is not on the workers risking their lives on the front lines of the oil and gas industry, Mr. Lyons told CPI. “It all starts in a boardroom many miles away. I don’t blame the men who, unfortunately, died in this tragedy or were out there working. It’s not their fault they were improperly trained and improperly supervised.”
Increased Demand Increases Jobsite Dangers
America is currently in the middle of a fossil fuel rush. A spike in export demands has enticed gas and oil companies into rapidly ramping up productivity. Unfortunately, in the haste to refine more gas and oil, most companies have allowed worker safety and health to be overlooked, according to the report. Over the past decade, an average of 156 oilfield workers have died each year in preventable accidents, such as explosions and toxic fume exposure. Nearly the same number of U.S. troops died in Afghanistan over the same period.
Since 2008, extraction industry companies have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for more than 10,870 safety violations. Nearly 7,000 of those violations were serious and could likely cause “death or serious physical harm” if not corrected immediately. Eleven of the fatalities investigated involved Patterson-UTI, with OSHA finding violations in 10 of the incidents.
Fighting to Hold Oil & Gas Companies Accountable
According to CPI and OSHA, the average oilrig or oilfield violation is met with an initial fiscal penalty of about $16,000. Most fines are contested, with settlements resulting in an average 30 percent reduction. After the initial OSHA investigation, Patterson-UTI was cited for six violations, incurring proposed fines of $73,909. Additionally, Crescent Consulting was assessed with $36,586 in fines for four violations. Both are contesting the citations.
The task to put accountability on the shoulders of gas and oil corporations currently falls upon the families of victims and the attorneys who represent them. By holding large corporations accountable for their actions, the families of the victims hope to gain the attention of the executives making the decisions that often lead to these tragedies.
To learn more, be sure to click here to view the full article from The Texas Tribune featuring Lyons. If you need trial-tested and battle-ready oilfield accident attorneys for a claim of your own, contact Lyons & Simmons, LLP at (844) 297-8898.