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Underreported injuries in the petroleum industry

Construction workers get a lot of attention for the risks of injuries on the job. Many unquestioningly accept that construction and farming are two of the most dangerous professions, with injuries that are often debilitating or fatal. However, analysis of data gathered from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration shows that another industry may far surpass these two in fatalities and injuries.

The petroleum industry, particularly upstream oil and gas, consistently reports high rates of injuries, and many believe these numbers to be low estimates. In fact, if you suffered injuries on the job at an oil or gas field, you may agree that the industry often advertises injury rates considerably lower than national averages to project a safe and low-risk image. However, OSHA data contradicts those reports.

Severe injuries

While the rate of serious injuries dropped last year, many believe this was as much because of the reduction of oil-field workforces as it was due to improved safety. However, until recently, OSHA required businesses to report only fatal or multi-victim accidents. This changed in 2015 when OSHA began gathering data for accidents involving amputations or hospitalization of any employee.

In the year since the reporting rule changed, the oil and gas industry reported 503 severe injuries. Unfortunately, that number only begins to highlight the problem. Because you work in California, your injury is not included in national injury data. California is one of 21 states that report only to their state agencies.

If you suffered a severe injury, you may be a victim of any of the following:

  • Burns from an explosion
  • Injuries from an object striking or falling on you
  • Broken bones from a fall
  • Injuries from catching a body part in machinery
  • Amputation

In fact, the amputation of fingers, especially from an encounter with moving parts of a machine, was the most common severe injury reported. If this is the type of injury you suffered, you are probably already learning how it will affect your life. You may not be able to return to work, and certainly you will have difficulty performing many tasks you once took for granted.

Learning to accept help when you need it

Analysts may exclude the oil and gas industry from many lists of high-risk jobs because it technically has a low rate of injury. However, the reason for this is that most of the industry's accidents are fatal, so there aren't really injuries to report. Surviving the accident that injured you makes you a very fortunate employee.

Nevertheless, you have a long road of recovery ahead of you. One thing you may find important is asking for help when you need it. You can always seek assistance for your legal questions, including the complex and often frustrating process of claiming the workers' compensation benefits you deserve.

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