Although the worldwide drop in oil prices has slowed the Bakken oil boom, the energy industry is still important to the economy in and around Billings. There are three oil refineries in Yellowstone County, two of which are in the Billings area and one in Laurel.
Oil refineries present a number of potential safety hazards for workers. The processing of flammable liquids and vapors at high temperatures and under high pressure creates a risk of fires and explosions. In addition, there is a risk of occupational disease due to exposure to hazardous chemicals such as hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. Loading and unloading of tanker trucks and railroad tank cars can also be hazardous if safety rules are not strictly followed.
When a refinery worker is injured on the job, he or she has a right to collect benefits under Montana’s workers’ compensation system. The benefits include wage loss benefits, permanent disability benefits and medical expenses. Medical expense benefits include coverage of medications and reimbursement for mileage to and from medical appointments.
The law allows an injured worker to collect workers’ compensation benefits without the need to prove the employer was at fault, and in fact prohibits the employee from suing the employer for negligence. If the injury was caused by a third party other than the employer, however, the worker can sue that party and recover additional compensation over and above the workers’ compensation benefits.
Employers and their insurance companies often try to minimize a worker’s injury and cut off benefits before the worker has fully recovered. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can fight to recover the benefits to which a worker is entitled.
Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration, “OSHA Technical Manual: Section IV: Chapter 2: Petroleum Refining Process,” accessed March 27, 2016