Legal Protections for Oilfield Workers in Radiation-Related Injuries And What a Houston Oilfield Injury Lawyer Can Do

Updated on November 3, 2023

Working in the oil and gas industry can be rewarding, but it also comes with risks. One of the hazards faced by oilfield workers is exposure to radioactive materials that are brought up from the underground during drilling and extraction processes.

Understanding Radiation Exposure Risks for Oilfield Workers

Radioactive substances like radium and uranium can be found naturally in the geologic formations where oil and gas are extracted. When drillers bore into the earth looking for fossil fuel deposits, these materials get churned up to the surface. And so, without proper protection, workers can inhale or ingest radiation dust and particles or have direct skin contact.

The results of radiation exposure may not be immediately obvious. Health effects like cancer can take years or even decades to manifest. But make no mistake – radiation from oilfields can cause cellular damage that leads to serious illness and death. Oilfield workers face increased risks of:

  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Bone cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Kidney cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Brain cancer

Studies have confirmed higher rates of cancer mortality among oilfield workers compared to the general population. Radiation exposure deserves its share of the blame.

Beyond cancer, radiation sickness can also cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea, headache, and fever. At high enough doses, radiation can kill.

However, not all oilfield jobs carry the same level of risk. Roles like roughnecks, derrickmen, drillers, and mud engineers have more exposure to radiation dust on the rig floor. Geologists and engineers may encounter radiation sources while logging wells. Transportation workers who haul contaminated drilling materials can also face hazards.

Generally, proper safety protocols can reduce radiation risks, but cannot always eliminate them entirely. As a result, workers have a right to know about workplace dangers and take steps to protect themselves. And if their employer fails to inform them or take adequate steps to protect them from such dangers, then they have a right to request their Zehl & Associates Houston oilfield injury lawyer to bring a lawsuit against those who fail to protect them.

OSHA Standards for Oilfield Radiation Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires oil and gas well operators to take actions to safeguard workers from radiation. Under OSHA Rule 29 CFR 1910.1096, companies must:

  • Monitor work areas and materials for radiation
  • Post warning signs in contaminated zones
  • Provide radiation detection devices
  • Maintain records of employee exposure
  • Supply proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Establish safe handling procedures for radioactive materials
  • Offer radiation safety training to workers

In addition, OSHA sets limits for maximum radiation exposure over different time periods:

  • 5 rem per year
  • 15 rem per quarter
  • 1.25 rem per month

1 rem = 1 roentgen equivalent man, a measurement of radiation absorbed dose.

Exceeding these limits triggers requirements for medical exams and temporary job reassignment. Failure to comply with OSHA rules can result in regulatory fines and penalties. But even when standards are followed, workers can still get hurt.

If you have concerns about radiation protection at your job site, you can file a confidential safety complaint with OSHA. A Houston oilfield injury attorney can also help you assert your rights.

Seeking Compensation for Oilfield Radiation Injuries

Suppose you end up suffering health effects from on-the-job radiation exposure. In that case, you may have a valid legal claim against negligent parties like your employer, third-party contractors, and equipment manufacturers. Financial recovery can help pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

One option is filing for benefits through your state’s workers’ compensation system. Every state has a no-fault workers’ comp program that provides medical care and income replacement for people hurt on the job. While workers’ comp may cover some losses, it comes with limits on compensation amounts. It also restricts your ability to sue the company.

However, an experienced Houston oilfield injury lawyer can help you seek damages outside the workers’ comp system, through a personal injury or product liability lawsuit. Possible legal claims include:

  • Negligence – Failure to implement proper safety measures against radiation.
  • Strict liability – Responsibility for harm caused by an “abnormally dangerous” activity like drilling.
  • Breach of contract – Violating an employment agreement to maintain a safe working environment.
  • Product liability – Injury caused by a defective device like a ruptured transportation container.

In some cases, multiple parties share blame for oilfield radiation exposure. A law firm can help identify all responsible entities and hold them fully accountable. This opens up additional avenues for recovery beyond just workers’ comp.

The time to take legal action is limited. Texas law imposes a statute of limitations of two years to file a personal injury claim. But given the complexities of radiation exposure cases, getting experienced counsel on your side sooner is better. An attorney can start collecting evidence and estimating damages while your health is monitored.

Finding the Right Lawyer for Your Case

Not just any lawyer will do for an oilfield radiation injury claim. You need an attorney well-versed in the scientific complexities these cases entail. A firm should also have track records of big verdicts and settlements in similar cases.

Here are important questions to ask when vetting an oilfield injury law firm:

  • How much experience do you have handling radiation exposure cases? Look for extensive specific background. This is because while any skilled and competent lawyer can represent you, you have better odds of receiving the compensation you deserve by opting for someone who has spent decades handling cases that are similar to yours.
  • Are you familiar with OSHA regulations for radiation safety in oil and gas? Expertise with the rules is a must.
  • How does radiation litigation differ from other injury cases? Make sure the firm understands the intricacies.
  • Can you explain radiation’s health effects? The firm should convey expertise on medical issues.
  • Have you taken radiation cases to trial before? A willingness to go to court shows tenacity.
  • Can you name some past verdicts and settlements? Big radiation wins indicate skill.
  • Do you utilize radiation physics experts? Access to specialists bolsters a case.
  • Will you fully investigate my employer’s safety lapses? Tenacious probing is key.

When talking to law firms, be upfront about your situation and concerns. Share details about your radiation exposure, health effects, and employer’s response. This helps assess if a firm is truly a good fit.

It’s also prudent to research a firm’s background beyond just their sales pitch. Look for:

  • A long track record with oilfield litigation. Decades of experience are ideal.
  • Lawyers board certified in personal injury law or workers’ compensation.
  • Membership in professional groups like the American Association for Justice.
  • Accolades from peers like Super Lawyers or Best Lawyers.
  • State bar disciplinary records – none should exist.
  • Top ratings from third-party attorney review sites.

Act Now to Protect Your Rights After Radiation Exposure

Sustaining a radiation-related illness can derail your life and livelihood. But Texas law provides protection if you get hurt on an oil or gas job. With an attorney’s guidance, you may be able to recover significant damages by taking legal action over negligence that led to your exposure.

A seasoned Houston oilfield injury law firm can stand up for you against even the most powerful corporations. But cases take time to build, so it’s important to start exploring your options right away. Don’t wait for health issues to arise – be proactive now. 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.