Ten years after the Deepwater explosion, little has changed

On Behalf of | May 15, 2020 | Maritime Law |

They say that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Does this mean that we’re headed someday toward another catastrophic oil rig disaster?

In March, we passed the ten-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. That explosion claimed 11 lives and spewed more than four million barrels of oil into the ocean. The damage to the rig, its workers, the environment and the economy cost billions upon billions of dollars. Even ten years later, the Department of the Interior writes that it continues to focus on the recovery.

It could all happen again

There’s no changing the past, so the biggest problem today may be that people don’t learn their lessons. The Guardian recently explored the government’s response. It reported that the government created new safeguards after the explosion. But lobbying from the American Petroleum Institute has since convinced the current administration to loosen regulations and inspect fewer rigs.

The result is there’s little to separate the risk of a Deepwater-type disaster today from the one we saw ten years ago. Additionally, as we noted in an earlier blog, the industry has seen a recent rise in spills, injuries and deaths.

Some experts say the chances of another Deepwater are lower today than ten years ago, but they stress there are plenty of other dangers. And if the government has shifted from regulating the industry to “partnering” with it, does this place extra responsibility on the oil rig owners and operators? Can workers trust them to look out for their safety?

Paired with the increased demand for corporate responsibility, there are other factors that may place workers at risk:

  • The move toward drilling in deeper waters
  • Increased drilling of high-pressure wells
  • More wells drilled into more complicated geological formations

As The Guardian reported, studies have found that for every 100 feet deeper you take a well, you increase the risk of accidents by 8.5%. Companies are moving in this direction even as the government allows them to self-regulate. As a result, in recent years, oil rigs have seen an average of one fire or explosion every three days. In 2017 and 2018, there were 50 fatalities on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shareholders aren’t the only ones who count

When the oil companies receive permission to police themselves, they have a choice to make. They can either try to cheat the system and maximize their short-term profits. Or they can step up, follow the rules and promote safety as much as profit.

Your employer owes you a safe workspace. Even if you work miles from shore. And when your employer shortcuts safety measures and puts you at risk, they become liable for your work injuries. Though the laws for maritime injuries can be tricky, an experienced attorney can help you claim the compensation you deserve. Your work shouldn’t benefit only the shareholders. Your employer has a duty to you, as well.