7 Common Jack-Up Rig Accidents (and What Drilling Companies Should Do To Prevent Them)

Jones Act Dec 16, 2022

Working on a jack-up rig is dangerous. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is among the most dangerous jobs in the country. While some of the risks of working on a jack-up rig come with the territory, many of them are preventable. Unfortunately, drilling companies often prioritize their profits over their workers’ safety, and, as a result, preventable accidents are far too common.

No matter what happened, if you have been injured working on a jack-up rig, you should talk to a lawyer about your legal rights. Workers on jack-up rigs can file claims under the Jones Act regardless of how they get injured (with only a few limited exceptions). But, if the drilling company could have prevented your accident, you may be entitled to additional compensation. So, when you meet with a lawyer, the more information you can share about how you got injured, the better.

Common Preventable Accidents on Jack-Up Drilling Rigs

When can jack-up rig workers seek additional compensation under the Jones Act? Here are seven common examples of jack-up rig accidents that drilling companies can—and should—prevent in most cases:

1. Crew Boat, Helicopter and Transfer Accidents

Many jack-up rig accidents occur while transferring workers to and from these offshore rigs. Accidents involving crew boats colliding with rigs, unsafe gangways and ladders, unsafe transfer baskets, and helicopter transfers are all more common than they should be.

To prevent these accidents, drilling companies should ensure that their crew boat and helicopter operators follow all appropriate safety procedures. They should also ensure that all gangways, ladders and transfer baskets are adequately maintained, properly installed and safe for use. Weather and sea conditions are common factors in these accidents as well, so drilling companies should delay transfers when necessary.

2. Slips, Trips and Falls on the Rig (or Into the Water)

Slips, trips and falls are among the most common causes of injuries on all job sites, jack-up rigs included. On offshore rigs, injuries from falls on deck are not the only concern—falling into the water is a very real concern as well.

To mitigate the risk of fall-related injuries on their jack-up rigs, drilling companies should ensure that their rigs are free from slip and trip hazards—including spills, tools left on the deck and slippery walking surfaces (among others). Supervision is also extremely important so that workers who fall into the water can be rescued immediately.

3. Tong and Slip Accidents

Tongs and slips are necessary apparatuses on jack-up rigs, but they can be extremely dangerous if not used properly. Tong and slip accidents are common causes of jack-up rig injuries as well.

To reduce the risk of workers being injured in tong and slip accidents, drilling companies should provide adequate training to all personnel who will be using these apparatuses. They should also ensure that their tongs and slips are in safe operating condition.

4. Equipment and Machinery Failures

Along with tongs and lips, various pieces of equipment and machinery on jack-up rigs also present serious injury risks for workers. Failures involving everything from jack-up systems and drilling derricks to cranes and welding equipment can lead to multiple serious (and sometimes fatal) injuries.

On jack-up rigs, worker safety should be drilling companies’ first priority. Unfortunately, it often isn’t. To protect their workers from serious and fatal injuries caused by equipment and machinery failures, drilling companies should inspect these assets regularly, perform all necessary maintenance and repairs, and provide adequate training and supervision.

5. Accidents Caused By Coworker Negligence

Even if a jack-up rig’s equipment and machinery are in good working order, accidents can still happen due to coworker negligence. On jack-up rigs, even minor mistakes can have serious consequences. From misusing equipment and machinery to engaging in horseplay or using drugs or alcohol on the job, various mistakes can put everyone on the rig in harm’s way.

There are several steps that drilling companies can (and should) take to prevent accidents caused by their employees’ negligence. This starts with hiring qualified workers. Too often, drilling companies hire anyone who is willing to work, even if they don’t have the knowledge and skills they need to do the job safely. Providing adequate training and supervision are key here as well.

6. Exposure to Toxic Fumes or Substances

Workers on jack-up rigs may be exposed to various toxic fumes and substances. This includes everything from gasoline and diesel fumes to hydrogen sulfide released during drilling operations. Exposure to toxic fumes and substances can have various adverse health effects—from skin burns and inhalation injuries to various forms of cancer.

To protect their workers from the risks of toxic exposure, drilling companies should ensure that all workers on their jack-up rigs have access to the safety equipment they need (i.e., masks and respirators). Drilling companies must also ensure that all containers of hazardous substances are properly labeled and stored safely.  

7. Collapses, Fires, Explosions and Other Catastrophes

Finally, far too many jack-up rig workers suffer life-altering injuries and lose their lives due to collapses, fires, explosions and other catastrophes. Simply put, there is no excuse for any of these events to put jack-up rig workers’ lives at risk. Yet, they happen every year, and they often result from issues that are within the drilling company’s control.

Preventing catastrophes on offshore drilling rigs requires a commitment to doing the right thing. When drilling companies put safety first, they can prevent the vast majority of these major accidents. When they don’t, they unnecessarily put their workers’ lives at risk. Drilling companies have a legal obligation to protect their workers, and when they fail to meet this obligation, they can (and should) be held accountable.

Contact Us About Your Jack-Up Rig Accident Claim Under the Jones Act

If you have been seriously injured—or if you have lost a loved one—working on a jack-up rig, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information. To speak with an experienced maritime lawyer about your rights under the Jones Act, please call 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can contact you online today.

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