5 Common Injuries Affecting Offshore Workers

People who work offshore, drilling in oil rigs, are often exposed to several health risks. For this reason, offshore workers must know the possible risks and their legal rights in case of accidents or fatalities. 

According to Justin M. Chopin, a maritime injury lawyer at Chopin Law Firm, offshore accidents can be fatal if an employer is negligent. In his words, “Not only is the work physically demanding, but the close contact with large equipment and heavy machinery can lead to serious personal injury if the negligence of an employer or other employee is involved.” Offshore workers face severe physical risks, from broken bones to exposure to toxic chemicals. Here are common injuries affecting offshore workers and what to do when one is involved in an accident working offshore. 

  • Fractures and Broken Bones

Accidents sometimes happen in offshore sites that lead to fractured and broken bones. This can result in loss of function in the affected body part, severe pain, visible deformities and a lengthy period where the affected party is out of work to recover from the accident.

In offshore sites, common causes of broken and fractured bones include falling from a height due to a slip and fall, machinery accidents with a limb getting caught in a machine, and getting hit by a falling item. Some long-term impacts of broken and fractured bones include chronic pain, reduced mobility, depression, anxiety and other psychological effects. 

Anyone who gets injured while working offshore and suffers a fractured or broken bone is entitled to specific compensation and can sue their employer for negligence. Compensation could include payment of medical bills, including surgeries, hospital stays, and physical therapy. They may also get compensation for lost wages and their pain and suffering after the accident.

  • Severed or Crushed Body Parts 

Sometimes, due to an offshore accident, a hand, foot, finger, leg, or other body part may get crushed or even wholly severed, to the extent that they may be amputated. This happens with improperly operated machinery, poorly maintained machinery or due to other cases of negligence from employers. Crush injuries are expensive to treat and sometimes lead to muscle cell death. After a body part is torn off in an accident, the involved worker will need hospitalization, occupational and physical therapy, medication, rehabilitation, and prosthetic devices, among other costs. These parties may be entitled to compensation if the accident results from negligence.

  • Internal Organ Damage

It’s common to encounter potentially toxic substances working offshore with resources such as crude oil, production chemicals, solvents and drilling fluids. Exposure to these chemicals can cause severe allergic reactions, respiratory problems, asphyxiation, rashes and chemical burns. Inhalation of these chemicals can also increase one’s chances of developing certain illnesses, such as respiratory disorders and certain forms of cancer. For this reason, always using the appropriate protective gear when working offshore is essential. Employees should also be trained on all safety measures to prevent exposure to toxic substances. If you experience any damage to your internal organs due to exposure to chemicals while working offshore, you may get compensation from your employer.

  • Spinal Disc Injury

One common injury among offshore workers is spinal disc injury. These injuries happen because offshore workers must often stand or bend for long hours. Their job also frequently requires workers to do a lot of lifting and pulling, which over the years has taken a toll on the back and spinal cord, causing herniated discs along the spinal cord. The employer’s responsibility is to teach employees how to avoid manual handling injuries at work. Spinal disc injuries can also be caused by slip and fall accidents on wet decks or being hit by falling objects on site. 

Herniated discs can cause intense pain that limits the sufferer’s ability to work. It also causes numbness and weakness in the legs. If you feel pain around your spinal cord, the first step to diagnosing a spinal disc injury will be to visit a doctor who may order a CT scan or an MRI. Once diagnosed, spinal discs are treated with adequate rest and physical therapy. These injuries sometimes require surgery; the healing period could span several weeks. If you are an offshore worker with a spinal disc injury, you may be eligible for compensation from your employer.

  • Burns 

Maritime sites often have flammable materials on them. These materials pose a significant risk of explosions and fires, especially in offshore oil rigs. These fires and explosions can be deadly, especially onboard maritime vessels. An example is the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Equipment failures, blowouts and employer negligence. Equipment failures, blowouts and employer negligence can also cause fires and explosions on site.

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