A new Louisiana bill will require offshore workers to wear life vests with locator beacons capable of sending distress signals. The law is designed to make a dangerous profession safer for workers transported to oil rigs via helicopter. A beacon can alert authorities to an emergency and locate crash victims. The bill passed unanimously in the Louisiana Legislature, and families who have lost loved ones in offshore helicopter crashes shared their gratitude for the new law. It has been billed as “Jacob’s Law” in memory of Jacob Matt, an offshore worker killed in a 2008 crash whose body wasn’t discovered for several days. Tragically, he may have been saved with a G.P.S. locator.
Matt’s family has been fighting to make beacons mandatory for over a decade. A version of the bill passed in 2011, but it stalled because beacons were prohibitively expensive, with a $2,000 price tag. Today, locator beacons cost only $200. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2024, to allow companies time to purchase beacons and train their workers. The legislature’s focus on offshore safety is good news for the workers who face oil rig hazards daily.
The Dangers of Offshore Work
Offshore oil jobs are regularly ranked among the most dangerous in the country. Employees work grueling 12-hour days and must expertly handle heavy machinery and highly flammable materials. Offshore accidents can result in severe injuries and often lead to fatalities.
In many cases, workers aren’t at fault, although oil companies may argue differently or attempt to downplay a worker’s injuries. That’s why finding a Louisiana offshore accident attorney after you’re injured is essential. Common injury causes include slips and falls, fires and explosions, chemical exposure, and being struck by large objects.
The most common cause of offshore work-related fatalities doesn’t happen while on the job. Transportation accidents are the most deadly risk to offshore workers, and most of these events are helicopter crashes. In Louisiana, many oil rigs are miles away from land in the Gulf of Mexico, and the most efficient way to get to a work site is by air. Workers must rely on helicopters to transport them to and from work on an offshore oil rig. Unfortunately, these seemingly mundane trips often end in tragedy.
Offshore Job Transportation Accidents
According to 2013 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of offshore worker deaths in seven years resulted from accidents. Half of the offshore worker fatalities resulted from transportation events, usually by aircraft or water vehicles. Of the fatal transportation accidents, 75% involved helicopters. The most common contributing factors to these crashes were mechanical failures and inclement weather. Helicopter crashes are declining today compared to the mid-2000s, which is attributable to better technology and training.
A report released last month shows there’s still work to be done. Transportation accidents are still the most significant proportion of oil and gas worker fatalities, which the study attributes to a lack of “industry safety and health standards and the un-unionized circumstances of the industry.” In January, the U.S. Coast Guard found the remains of three workers and a helicopter pilot who died in a crash near Louisiana on their way to an oil rig. Rescuers discovered the workers days after the accident, which was later attributed to the helicopter being damaged during takeoff.
Time is of the essence after an offshore accident such as a helicopter crash. Even if passengers don’t suffer fatal injuries on impact, they will be lost at sea and susceptible to hypothermia, dehydration, and exhaustion. It can take days for rescuers to find lost passengers, and many succumb to the elements during that time. Locator beacons allow the Coast Guard to pinpoint a worker’s location and save them quickly.
While the new safety measures are encouraging, they unfortunately won’t stop all offshore injury accidents. After an offshore crash, you may wonder whether you should hire an attorney. The answer is an unequivocal yes. You need someone familiar with maritime law and how oil and gas companies respond to accidents. Many workers assume that their employer is on their side, but they may try to downplay injuries or pressure you to accept an unfair settlement. An experienced offshore accident attorney can negotiate with the company’s insurer and help you determine adequate compensation for your injuries. If settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, they can represent you at trial.
Herman Herman Katz has represented offshore accident victims for years. These cases require specialized experience and attention, so picking a skilled Louisiana offshore accident law firm is crucial. Call us toll-free at 844-943-7626 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.