Diesel Injury Law

Oilfield Workers
& Diesel Exhaust

Whether you work as a Toolpusher, Motorman, Driller, Pipefitter, Derrickhand, Roughneck or Roustabout, one exposure that is constant for employees in the oil fields is diesel exhaust. Oilfield workers are exposed to diesel exhaust through the rig’s engine, air compressors, pump engines, and diesel vehicles. As a result, it is no surprise that oilfield workers suffer high rates of diesel illnesses like cancers of the lung, throat, nose, mouth, bladder, kidney and stomach.

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    Oilfield Workers & Benzene

    Benzene is a known carcinogen that has long been linked to blood and bone marrow cancers cancers like Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and Multiple Myeloma. While the petrochemical industry executives will disagree, the fact is there is no safe level of benzene exposure. Studies indicate that workers exposed to “safe” levels of benzene over the course of their careers are sometimes more than 100 times more likely to develop leukemia when compared to unexposed workers.

    Benzene is a component of diesel fuel and exhaust. So unfortunately, oilfield workers suffer benzene exposures via their everyday use of diesel-powered equipment. In addition, many of the solvents, degreasers and other chemicals used by workers in the oilfields presently contain benzene or at one time contained high mixes of benzene.

    Benzene is also a naturally occurring component of crude oil, so workers on oil rig decks endure regular benzene exposures. The oilfield workers who suffer some of the worst benzene exposures are the tank workers – those tasked with venting, measuring and cleaning the tanks. Lastly, there are growing alarms sounding for the unsafe benzene-exposures suffered by workers engaged in hydraulic fracturing processes.

    Oilfield Workers & Asbestos

    The analysis into what caused an oilfield workers illness can be complicated by the many different exposures suffered by these employees. If you worked in the oilfields in years past, you would have been exposed to asbestos used in machine brakes, clutches and gaskets along with asbestos used to insulate pipes. As these asbestos-containing parts and insulation aged, it would have begun to weaken and break apart into tiny dust particles that were inhaled, eventually causing conditions like mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Oilfield workers frequently wore protective clothing that contained asbestos to insulate the workers from the fire and heat sources associated with the work. Asbestos fibers were also regularly cut and torn apart by rig workers and added to the mud mixture which was used to cool the drill bits and flush debris from the well holes.

    In California, a 76-year-old engineer working for A.W. Chesterton Company, was exposed to asbestos found in oil refineries. After working in the petroleum industry for over 40 years, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. The worker sued the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products that he worked with during his career and was awarded $14.8 million.

    Oilfield Workers & Silica

    Silica sand is another lung carcinogen that oilfield workers are regularly exposed to. Silica is a basic component of granite, sand, and soil and it is sometimes used as a blasting agent. Long term silica exposures can lead to lung cancer and a condition called silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can be fatal.

    Oilfield Workers & Hydrogen Sulfide

    Hydrogen Sulfide is regularly found at oil and gas deposit work sites. The symptoms and odor change as the exposure level increases. At lower level exposures, workers frequently describe a rotten egg odor accompanied by symptoms such as headaches, nausea and fatigue. At higher levels, the odor becomes sickeningly sweet and can lead to altered breathing, staggering, collapse and even death.

    Oilfield Workers & Chemicals

    Dependent on the drilling processes and techniques, there may be any number of chemical exposures suffered by oilfield workers. These exposures to various chemicals, caustics and vapors can cause many different illnesses. Workers should be aware of their environment, utilize appropriate protective equipment and pay heed to the material safety data sheets for the chemicals they work around.

    Diesel Injury Law serves sickened oilfield workers across the country. Where possible, we will file products liability actions against the manufacturers of the products that caused your illness. We will pursue all legal avenues available, be it a workers’ compensation claim against your employer or a premises liability action against the owner of a dangerous work site. Call Diesel Injury Law today and speak for free with an experienced attorney.

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    Verdicts and Settlements

    Survey of Railroad Cancer Claims

    Hughes Law Offices is providing case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings.
    Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices.
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    Railroad carman died of pulmonary fibrosis following 18 years of welding.



    Locomotive engineer in his early 60’s developed diesel asthma.



    Railroad mechanic diagnosed with squamous cell oropharyngeal cancer.



    Trainman died of nasopharyngeal cancer as a result of working on-board locomotives filled with diesel exhaust.



    Retired railroad employee died of lung cancer as a result of workplace asbestos exposure.



    61 year old railroad conductor diagnosed with interstitial fibrosis and an increased risk of lung cancer as a result of exposure to diesel exhaust.

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