The oil industry is one of the most lucrative in the country. It is also one of the most dangerous. One such job within the oil industry that is particularly dangerous is that of an oil pumper. There are a number of contributing factors, often beyond the pumper’s control, that could lead to a serious injury.
Pumpers work almost exclusively alone
Pumpers work almost exclusively by themselves, even if they are employed by a company. With so many wells to hit each day, working alone probably makes sense: you can work at your own pace, create your own route, and get things done fast. You can also make a lot more money if you service more wells each day.
But working alone also makes it more difficult for pumpers to get in touch with a supervisor or emergency services if they should suffer an injury, or get stuck in a tight situation while working on a well, which can lead to serious complications for their health. Not every field has the best cell reception, after all, and if you do get hurt, there’s no one to go for help.
Failure to follow safety policies
Whether you work as a contracted pumper or a salaried pumper for a company, sometimes there are safety policies that simply aren’t followed. Why? The oil industry is an incredibly busy, fast-paced industry. Companies may fail to keep up with safety policies and procedures, and they don’t always have enough incentive to do so.
In 2018, an explosion on a rig near Quinton killed 5 oil workers and severely burned another. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cited three different companies for “improperly using a heat lamp near the combustible opening of the well.” The total amount of fines equaled $118,643.
Five people died, and the fines probably didn’t even cover their salaries. Much like with auto defects, if a well operator or company thinks the fines will cost less than the costs of repairing them, then a pumper could be at risk.
Equipment that hasn’t been maintained
The main job of an oil pumper is to inspect the wells that they have been assigned by the company that hires them. They are supposed to make sure the wells on their inspection list are working properly and don’t have any broken parts. Pumpers who are forced to rush through their inspections might miss warning signs of issues that could lead to an explosion or other serious issue. If a pumper does discover something wrong, and cannot fix the problem him or herself, then it’s up to the owner to address the issue. If he or she doesn’t, then an explosion or fire could be eminent.
Remember, too, that Oklahoma’s wells are different from other states’. A number of our wells are decades old, and owned by smaller companies or individuals (or, at least, they were). The technology is old, the pipes are old, and the maintenance is a grind.
Not enough training
Improper or lack of training is another danger to pumpers in the oil industry. When they visit an oil well, they might interact with workers who haven’t received the proper amount of training. This can lead to a serious accident that can injure anyone at the well. Companies in the oil industry either hire inexperienced workers and place them in the wrong jobs, or do not provide their employees with continued training to ensure there are no accidents at their pumps.
But you don’t have to believe us: the lack of training and experience is a sore spot for Evelyn Dixon, too. She and Rachael Van Horn sat down for some interviews about being female pumpers in Oklahoma, and the trials and tribulations associated with working in a male-dominated industry. Both women made it a point to say the job was dangerous, and companies might be more likely to hire an inexperienced man to work those wells.
Common injuries to pumpers
Pumping is hard work, and pumpers get injured often. Aside from the risks associated with entering someone’s land on your own (Rachael told The New Yorker about a pumper she knew who was killed by a bull), you have the very real – and far more common – risks of sustaining:
- Severe burn injuries
- Broken bones
- Electric shock
- Smoke inhalation
- Traumatic brain injury
- Repetitive stress injuries
If you were injured while pumping wells, you may be able to claim workers’ compensation for those injuries. However, if you are a contracted pumper, you’ll need to file a personal injury claim instead. No matter what you need to help you recover, the Oklahoma City oil field injury attorneys from Cunningham & Mears want to help. Call the office at 405-212-9234 or complete the contact form on the website and a member of the firm will reach out to you in a timely manner.