Alabama pipeline explosion highlights dangers of gas and oil work

On October 31, an explosion at the Colonial Pipeline in Shelby County killed one worker and injured nine others. This tragic accident is just one more reminder that workers in the oil and gas industry face grave dangers every day.

Always a dangerous industry, pipeline work can be further complicated when multiple parties work on a site. In this case, contractors were repairing damage to the pipeline caused by a leak in September. While running a track hoe during excavation, the hoe hit the pipeline and ignited the gasoline, causing the explosion and fire.

This is not to say that the pipeline explosion occurred simply because the workers involved were contractors. It is possible that anyone who was operating the track hoe could have had the same problem.

However, it is important to understand that overall safety may be compromised when many employers, owners and contractors work on the same site.

What happens when multiple parties work on a site?

In industries such as construction, gas and oil, and many building trades, contractors, subcontractors, vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, property owners and other parties may be involved in the work. While contractors and third parties are not necessarily more dangerous than other workers, having many parties on a worksite can cause problems such as:

  • Failure to communicate between the parties
  • Unclear safety procedures
  • Inconsistent levels of training and experience
  • Cost-cutting measures that impact worker safety

What can you do in such a case?

Workers who suffer injuries on the job are entitled to workers' compensation. In cases that involve third parties, workers may also be able to file a separate personal injury suit against the negligent party. These types of lawsuits provide additional compensation, including damages for pain and suffering.

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