On behalf of Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP

Protecting oil and gas workers from death or serious injury

oilfield workersTexas oil and gas workers face workplace dangers that may result in death or serious injury. To mitigate the risk of physical harm in the field, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration imposes strict drilling and servicing safety regulations on employers in the oil and gas industry.

We have experience in helping clients manage the consequences of oil field accidents.

What are some common injuries in the oil and gas industry?

Over half of all deaths in the oil and gas industry result from “struck-by/caught-in/caught-between” incidents that subject workers to risks from moving vehicles, falling equipment, and high-pressure lines. Workers may also be at risk of death or serious injury from several other hazards:

  • Explosions and fires caused by the ignition of flammable vapors or gases
  • Falls from elevated equipment like drilling platforms and masts
  • Vehicle collisions involving travel to distant well sites
  • The release of uncontrolled hydraulic, mechanical or electrical energy from faulty or improperly maintained equipment
  • The lack of adequate safeguards on machinery

What kinds of safety guidelines has OSHA established for the oil and gas industry?

OSHA has adopted several standards and practices designed to promote safe oil and gas field operations. All employers in the industry must identify and evaluate their site-specific hazards and then develop and adopt suitable safety procedures. These procedures may involve providing personal protective gear for workers, adopting drilling standards and implementing training programs that cover topics like proper equipment use. Employers should also have emergency response procedures.

Employers in the oil and gas industry have the responsibility to adopt and follow protocols designed to protect workers from death or serious injury. Our website has additional information about this topic.

Most U.S. adults uneasy about self-driving car technology

Drivers in Texas and across the U.S. are largely uneasy about traveling in a self-driving car. This is the crucial finding of a AAA study conducted in January 2020. It can prove educational for automakers and prompt them to give clearer, more tangible information with regards to self-driving vehicle technology.

Only 12% of survey respondents said they would feel safe in a self-driving car. Respondents gave their opinions as to what would make them feel safe: 72%, for example, said they would feel safe if the car let them take control in an emergency while 69% said they would want a human back-up driver in every self-driving car. Forty-seven percent would feel safer if a vehicle had passed rigorous testing while 42% said the same if they saw or participated in a safety demonstration.

The survey revealed what sort of things drivers want to know before getting in a self-driving vehicle. Fifty-seven percent wanted to know who would be held liable in a crash involving such a vehicle. Fifty-one percent were curious about what laws would be instituted to ensure safety in these vehicles. Forty-nine percent wondered how easily the vehicles can be hacked.

Self-driving cars are decades away from becoming an everyday reality. Still, AAA hopes that automakers will find better ways to connect with potential consumers.

Drivers should be aware that some car collisions involve semi-autonomous vehicles. Studies have shown how advanced driver assistance systems are causing inattention behind the wheel as drivers overly rely on these features, thinking that they make a car self-driving. Those who are injured at the hands of a distracted driver may file a claim because it’s clear that the other party was being negligent. They may want a lawyer to help them gather proof against the defendant.

Reminder: Look twice, save a life

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, on average, one motorcyclist dies on Texas roads. In 2018, 920 motorcyclists sustained serious injuries in collisions, while 417 lost their lives. In more than half of all motorcycle accidents, another car is involved. The reason many drivers cite for the incident is, they simply do not see the motorcycle. Lack of visibility due to congestion, distracted driving and the small frame of motorcycles gave way to Texas’s “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles” campaign.

The campaign has led to a drastic reduction in preventable motorcycle fatalities each year. Even, with months of good weather up ahead, it is always a good idea of drivers to brush up on tips for sharing the roads safely with motorcycles.

First and foremost, drivers should always look twice for motorcycles, especially at intersections. When changing lanes or turning, drivers should check their blind spots and use their turn signals. If a driver sees a motorcycle approaching in the rearview mirror, he or she should always assume it is closer than it appears.

Drivers should give motorcyclists a full lane, as they would to any other vehicle. They should maintain a safe distance between themselves and leading motorcycles, and follow posted speed limits.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed model language for states to use in their driver’s manuals, safety education courses and driver training materials regarding sharing the road safely with motorcyclists. Though Texas adopted some of the language in its campaign, there are a few tips worth mentioning that the campaign does not.

The NHTSA encourages all drivers to remember that motorcycles are vehicles and, as such, operators enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other driver on the road. It also informs drivers that turn signals on motorcycles are often not self-canceling, so a driver should wait to see an operator’s actual intent before proceeding.

Finally, road conditions that seem minor when in a standard vehicle may pose significant hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcyclists may need to adjust their speed or change positions to react accordingly to hazards along the road, including gravel, potholes, wet payment, railroad crossings, pavement seams and grooved pavement.

Vanessa Bryant sues helicopter company

Many Texans were shocked and saddened to learn of the deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the other people who were with them on the helicopter that was transporting them to a youth basketball game. On the morning of a memorial service in Los Angeles for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the helicopter.

Negligence allegations in the wrongful death lawsuit

The civil complaint alleges several claims against Island Express, the company that employed the helicopter pilot and that owned the aircraft. The lawsuit alleges that the pilot had previously been disciplined in 2015 for violating the visual flight rules and that the company should not have allowed the flight because of the heavy fog conditions. The lawsuit also alleges that the pilot was traveling at 180 mph and that he failed to properly monitor the weather conditions or to abort the flight.

Allegations about the lack of safety

While the pilot had the proper certifications to use the helicopter’s navigation system, the company did not. This means that it might not have been legal for the helicopter to have been flown in the foggy weather. Vanessa Bryant also argues that the helicopter was unsafe because of the lack of certifications for Island Express. She is seeking unspecified damages from the company for her losses.

 

Kobe Bryant’s widow is likely very wealthy, meaning that she does not need to recover substantial monetary damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. However, by filing the lawsuit against the company, she might be able to hold Island Express accountable for its negligence and deter other companies from engaging in similar conduct. People who lose loved ones because of the negligent or wrongful conduct of other people or entities may want to talk to experienced wrongful death attorneys. The lawyers might analyze the facts, evidence, and circumstances of a case and provide people with an analysis of the merits of their potential legal claims. Through a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family members might hold the negligent party liable to pay damages for their losses.

Schools starting later may reduce teen driver crashes

Texas residents with teenage children know that teens tend to sleep long and usually late into the day. If school starts early in the morning, then teens may not obtain the full 8 to 10 hours of sleep that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends, and this can lead to drowsiness behind the wheel and car crashes.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine published a study where a group of researchers analyzed the effect of a change that Fairfax County, Virginia, made to its school start times back in 2015. Specifically, the times were pushed back from 7:20 a.m. to 8:10 a.m. Determining the crash rate for licensed 16- to 18-year-old drivers in the year before and after the change, researchers noted a decline: It went from 31.63 to 29.59 crashes per 1,000 drivers.

Interestingly, the crash rate remained steady throughout the rest of Virginia, which did not change the time school started during that two-year period. Researchers noted that teens who got more sleep were less likely to drive distracted and take risks.

The AASM mentions other benefits of later school start times. Among them are fewer absences, less tardiness, fewer sports-related injuries, better academic performance and even better mental health for teens. The organization recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

Still, schools can only do so much for teens, and ultimately, it is up to drivers themselves whether they want to act negligently behind the wheel. When negligent behavior leads to a crash involving a personal injury, the other side can seek compensation. Victims must be less to blame than the defendant, and if they did partially contribute to the crash, then whatever damages they recover will be proportionally lowered. They may want a lawyer to help them achieve a fair settlement.