According to a study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2009, numerous workplace injuries went unreported by employers as a matter of routine. The report indicated that as many as two-thirds of all injuries on the job may not be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Some of the reasons cited for these failures include fear of increased workers compensation costs and reducing the likelihood of receiving government contracts. The oil industry is especially prone to these lapses in reporting. For oilfield employees who have been denied workers compensation or have been otherwise penalized for injuries sustained on the job, consulting with a Houston industrial accident lawyer can often provide valuable assistance in managing medical costs and achieving a fair settlement. The Human Cost of Non-Reporting A recent article in the Houston Chronicle highlights the human costs associated with failure to report injuries in the oil industry. In September 2011, Mitch McNamee was injured after a fall on Nabors Rig 245, an oil rig in Alaska. The accident was witnessed by several co-workers and supervisors at the time, but it was never recorded in his personnel file or in the drilling logs maintained by his employer, Nabors Alaska Drilling. He received no medical treatment or evaluation until much later. McNamee continued to perform his duties for a few days until he began to show signs of disorientation and loss of memory. He was then transferred to another company location and was later terminated by Nabors. He did not file a formal report until two weeks after the accident and did not apply for workers compensation until much later. These factors may have affected the denial of McNamee's claim. Today, Mitch McNamee is still unable to return to work and continues to suffer from the effects of this serious injury. OSHA Expanding Reporting Requirements Beginning on January 1, 2015, OSHA will begin requiring added reporting from all employers regarding work-related fatalities and injuries. Under the previous requirements, employers were required to report any work-related hospitalizations of three or more staff members as well as any fatalities related to work. The new rules require employers to provide added information regarding work-related injuries, including the following:
- Any inpatient hospitalizations, regardless of the number of employees affected
- All amputations
- All injuries that result in the loss of an eye
While these new regulations would still not have covered McNamee's particular case, they will provide added help for oil industry employees who suffer injuries on the job. Protecting People in the Working Environment For workers who are injured on the job, reporting the incident as quickly as possible is critical to ensure eligibility for workers compensation and coverage for medical expenses sustained as a result of their injuries. In the oil industry, some pressure may be brought to bear to suppress these reports. For example, McNamee was aware that bonuses were awarded for lengthy periods without reported accidents; this may have affected his decision to brush off the accident at the time and may have contributed to the deterioration of his physical condition over the long run. Reporting accidents promptly, however, is the best defense for workers who suffer injuries on the job. Enlisting the help of an oil rig accident lawyer can be helpful for oilfield workers who have sustained injuries in the course of their regular duties. An experienced Houston work injury attorney can identify issues that may have contributed to the accident. Most importantly, however, oilfield employees should report any accidents and injuries promptly and should seek medical help as soon as possible. This can allow injured individuals to protect their rights to workers compensation and medical expenses and can reduce the physical damage caused by these potentially dangerous incidents.