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Georgia Drilling Injury Risk Spikes as Industry Expands

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration recently issued a report highlighting the serious and inherent dangers in the oil and gas extraction industry – timely given the industry’s recent eye toward northwest Georgia.
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Our Atlanta workers compensation lawyers know this is an extremely dangerous occupation. Between 2003 and 2010, some 823 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job. That is an astonishing rate that is seven times higher than what we see for the rate of all U.S. industries as a whole.

As of 2011, OSHA reports there were more than 450,000 workers nationwide employed in the oil and gas extraction and support industries. These workers’ responsibilities are varied, but many are highly specialized. The industry is expected to continue expanding, particularly in Georgia.

The Associated Press reported earlier this year that trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are suspected to lie beneath the hills of northwest Georgia. Until now, they have been virtually untapped, though that is expected soon to change.

Although shale energy drilling as a whole is down nationwide, a number of companies are exploring this portion of the state and looking into investing in the purchase of property that could yield significant and long-sustaining gas extraction.

This news was significant, as Georgia has never before produced a drop of oil or natural gas. In fact, it’s been 30 years since any exploratory work was even done. Now, companies are focusing on a 20-to-100-mile swath of farms and forests that stretch from Georgia to Alabama and even into parts of Tennessee.

In Alabama, some 625 trillion cubic feet of natural gas have been tapped.

Insiders say there is natural gas beneath the surface in Georgia too – it’s just a matter of finding it.

If it is found, it could prove an economic boon for the region.

However, as the statistics show, it could put a substantial number of workers at risk. Among those health and safety dangers that resulted in the most fatalities for oil and gas workers:

  • Motor vehicle accidents;
  • Struck-by incidents;
  • Explosions and fires;
  • Falls;
  • Confined spaces;
  • Chemical exposures.

Of course, almost every single one of these incidents – if not all of them – are preventable.

OSHA offers guidelines for site preparation, drilling, well completion, servicing and plug and abandoning wells.

Perhaps some of the most dangerous incidents are those dealing with explosions and fires. These incidents tend to be more severe and affect a greater number of people at one time. OSHA said risk factors of explosions at well sites often stem from internal-combustion engine sparks, open flames, smoking, welding operations, electric power tools, two-way radios, catalytic converters from vehicles and portable generators. The agency recommends spark arrestors for internal-combustion engines, the postage of “No Smoking” signs and prohibition of certain vehicles and open flames near the rig.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., to speak with an experienced attorney. For a free consultation call 1-404-303-7770 today.

Additional Resources:
Gas drillers turn to northwest Georgia, March 10, 2013, Staff Report, Associated Press
More Blog Entries:
AFL-CIO Report Raises Serious Concerns about Workplace Safety, May 30, 2013, Atlanta Work Injury Lawyer Blog