As with all industrial operations, the Bakken oil field work uses electrical machinery and equipment. This places electrical power in close proximity with the flammable vapors and volatile liquids associated with oil work. In these circumstances, electrical power poses two types of workplace injury risks: direct exposure to electrical hazards such as shock and arc flash burns, and to fire and explosion hazards when electricity ignites nearby flammable liquids and vapors.
According to OSHA, exposure to electric current and to fires and explosions are among the top five sources of fatalities in the oil and gas industries. Here are three ways that electrical workplace injuries can happen:
Arc Flash Burns
When working with high power equipment, electricians risk arc flash burns and blasts. When the voltages are high enough, almost anything conducts electricity. This includes air. Electrical arcing is common enough in nature as lightning. Arc flashes and blasts are similar to this. Failure to follow electrical safety protocol by inexperienced electricians is one way such accidents occur. Sometimes, electricians will forego safety in favor of expediency and choose to service electrical equipment while they're energized.
Electrical arcs can injure or kill someone from ten feet away. They can produce a blast wave powerful enough to send shrapnel or people across a room. They produce temperatures as hot as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes severe or fatal burns, and will ignite nearby flammables, including petrochemicals.
Electricians aren't the only people exposed to the risk of electrical shock. Oil field workers who aren't focused on their surroundings can accidentally contact power lines when working on or with ladders. This may occur by making electrical contact while using a long-handled tool on a ladder. Sometimes, ladder handling in gusty winds may cause accidental contact. Dump trucks and earth moving equipment can also accidentally contact power lines.
Static electricity can build up when friction occurs between two different nonmetallic materials. This may naturally happen when operating certain types of equipment, when blowing dust through plastic piping or hosing, and when walking across nonconductive floors. One small static discharge is enough to ignite any one of the volatile substances commonly found in oil field operations.
If in spite of your safety consciousness, you suffered a debilitating electrical injury while doing Bakken oil field work, please contact us for legal advice.