There are 2.8 million miles of regulated pipelines in the United States. These pipelines transport an estimated 1.6 billion tons of hazardous materials each year. (U.S. Department of Transportation).
Although pipelines are a vital part of our transportation network, they can also be dangerous. Each year, there are hundreds of pipeline incidents that pose a risk to the thousands of workers in the oil industry. In fact, in 2021 alone, there were 630 documented pipeline incidents causing 13 fatalities and 32 injuries.
Pipeline explosions also pose a risk to people who do not work in the oil and gas industry.
Appreciating the dangers of pipeline explosions can help workers identify risks and take precautions. It’s also important to understand your rights if you’re injured because of a pipeline explosion.
Examples of Pipeline Explosions in the United States
Some pipeline explosions that have happened in the United States are:
- In 2017, the Keystone Pipeline leaked in South Dakota. As many as 5,000 barrels of crude oil leaked.
- Another Keystone Pipeline leak in 2019 caused 383,000 gallons of oil to contaminate North Dakota wetlands.
- An Enbridge pipeline rupture in 2019 killed one person and hospitalized five more. The explosion and resulting fire also destroyed five homes.
- Too much pressure on a natural gas pipeline resulted in an explosion and fire in Massachusetts in 2018. One person died.
- A landslide caused a natural gas pipeline to rupture in West Virginia. It caused estimated damages of $437,250, but there were no injuries.
There are many serious pipeline incidents each year. Injuries and deaths have occurred each year from pipeline explosions. (USDOT)
Why Pipeline Explosions Are A Risk for Oil Workers
There are several reasons that pipeline explosions pose a risk for oil workers.
1. Aging infrastructure
Pipelines in the United States date back to the 1860s (Smithsonian). They replaced wagons and boats that transported oil. Today, much of the pipeline infrastructure in the United States is from the 1950s and 1960s (Wall Street Journal).
The age of America’s pipelines pose several risks, including corrosion and improper welds (Edwardsville The Intelligencer). Over time, the materials in the pipelines can degrade, causing the risk of failure. The result may be devastating to oil workers.
2. Digging and excavation incidents, mechanical damage
Working with oil pipelines involves digging and excavations. Errors in the excavation process can cause unintentional damage to a gas line. Workers may be digging for an entirely different purpose or servicing an existing gas line.
3. Equipment problems
Pipeline systems involve many components. There’s the pipe itself, but there are also pumps, valves, tanks, meters, and compressors that make the whole system work. When these systems fail, explosions can be the result. Emergency shut-off mechanisms may not be installed or functioning. Routine monitoring and maintenance, as well as failing to respond to signs of distress, can be reasons for pipeline explosions.
4. Natural disasters
The forces of nature can always create a risk for a pipeline explosion. Earthquakes, intense storms, and hurricanes all pose a risk of causing a pipeline to fail. The result may be devastating. Pipelines should be constructed with regard for expected weather phenomena that may strain their operations.
5. Code and safe practices violations
Employees must be adequately trained to work in the oil and gas industry. They must be told what precautions to take for their own safety as well as for the protection of the operation. The oil and gas industry is highly regulated. The exact requirements vary based on the type of materials being transported but include accident reporting, design requirements, and testing and corrosion control (Pipeline and Gas Journal).
The Dangers of Pipeline Explosions
Oil and gas workers must be constantly vigilant of pipeline explosions for several reasons. There is some risk inherent in the job. Working with materials that can explode and heavy equipment can carry some risks.
However, regulations exist in the oil and gas industry to minimize risk and prevent harm. Contributing factors to pipeline explosions may include:
- Inadequate monitoring of the pipeline for signs of corrosion or failures
- Poor training of workers
- Failing to mark work areas or marking areas incorrectly
- Trying to work too quickly
- Cost minimization efforts
- Not replacing aging infrastructure
- Allowing unqualified employees to work; retaining employees improperly after violations
- Improper procedures; failing to carefully plan activities
Many pipeline explosions are preventable. When they occur, they can instantly change a victim’s life.
What Are Your Rights Following an Oil Pipeline Explosion?
If you are injured in an oil pipeline explosion, you should address your medical needs first. Injuries may not always be readily apparent, and it’s important to receive stabilizing medical care as soon as possible.
It’s also important to talk to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. There will be investigations into what happened, and the oil company will want to avoid liability. However, you likely deserve covered medical care and other remedies. Working with an attorney as soon as possible prevents you from making any statements that may cause you to jeopardize your case.
Know that you may deserve financial compensation for your injuries. However, you must take the proper steps to bring your case and pursue it. Pipeline explosion cases are inherently complex. There are questions of applicable regulations, issues with multiple companies that may be involved, and legal questions like jurisdiction and the applicable law. There can be a myriad of legal questions to sort through to receive your compensation. However, all these issues must be addressed to successfully pursue your claim and receive the compensation you deserve.
Lawyers for Pipeline Explosions for Oil Workers
When a pipeline explosion causes serious injury, you have legal rights. Our lawyers represent injured victims. If you have been injured in a pipeline explosion, our lawyers can help you respond in the best possible way and claim financial compensation. We can also represent you if a loved one loses their life in an explosion.
Contact our lawyers for pipeline explosion injuries today for a review of your case. Call or send us a message for your consultation. Let us work quickly to get the compensation you deserve.