Oil business: Big money, big risks

Apr 30 2015

It’s common knowledge that oil is big business here in Denver. A number of energy companies have offices in tall, gleaming buildings downtown. And a number of those companies have workers with calloused hands and sweat-stained shirts working on rigs not far from those gleaming offices.

As the group Conservation Colorado made clear earlier this year with its maps showing oil and gas leases being sold in Aurora and throughout Arapahoe County, more drilling operations could be here in the near future. There’s no doubt that the oil business is lucrative — it accounts for more than $80 million per day or 11 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, according to an industry publication.

But it’s also an industry in which workers are too often injured while on the job. The top two fines in the history of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were handed out to an oil company. The largest fine (more than $80 million) was levied against BP in 2009, when the Deepwater Horizon well exploded, killing and injuring workers on the rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The second largest fine (more than $21 million) had been issued by OSHA four years earlier, also against BP. That time it was for the  Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others.

No one wants or expects these types of disasters anywhere in the future, least of all near us. But there are individual disasters that happen to workers on the rigs that can change lives: head injuries, serious burns, exposure to toxic fumes and substances, amputations and injuries from falls or being struck by heavy machinery, for example.

Injured workers, no matter the occupation or industry, can speak with an experienced Denver workers’ compensation attorney to fight for full compensation following a serious work-related injury.