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Oil field worker severely burned in tank explosion

A recent post in this blog talked about a class presented by OSHA to oil field supervisors to address safety issues in the oil fields. The need for such a class was brought home recently, when a 29-year old Utah man became the latest victim of an oil field accident.

The man was severely burned when a tank exploded at about 1:40 a.m. at an oil rig about 12 miles southwest of Stanley, North Dakota. The victim apparently fell off the top of the burning tank and then became trapped under it. Witnesses said he was engulfed in flames. Sheriff's officers arrived on the scene and gave the man first aid. He was airlifted to a hospital in Minot, and subsequently transported to a burn center in Minnesota. The man suffered third-degree burns over most of his body.

The cause of the explosion is not yet known. The rig was shut down for two days while the sheriff's department and the oil company conducted an investigation.

Oil field workers who are injured on the job have the right to bring a claim for workers' compensation. Benefits payable under workers' compensation include medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation and temporary and permanent disability. But pain and suffering damages are generally not recoverable under workers' compensation, which is a system created by the state legislature to provide prompt financial relief to workers who are injured on the job, without the necessity of proving the employer was at fault. Under the system, an employer who pays workers' compensation benefits is immune from a civil lawsuit.

In many cases, however, the negligence of a non-employer third party may have caused or contributed to the accident. These third parties are not immune from civil lawsuits. On construction sites and in the oil fields, these third party lawsuits are often possible simply because there are typically a number of companies, besides the injured worker's employer, working together at the site.

Source: Williston Herald, "1 hurt in explosion," Payton Willey, Sept. 6, 2012

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