Heavy Equipment in the Oilfields

The oilfield industry in Texas, while a crucial driver of the state’s economy, poses several significant dangers to both the environment and the people involved.

The oilfield industry in Texas is known for its high-risk work environments as oilfield workers are exposed to hazardous materials, heavy machinery, and extreme weather conditions, which can result in accidents and injuries.

Texas has one of the highest rates of workplace fatalities in the United States, with a substantial portion of these occurring in the oil and gas sector.  

Workplace accidents are not only physically and emotionally devastating but also economically and legally complex.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries in a Texas oilfield, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney who understands heavy equipment accidents. 

Risks of Heavy Equipment

The Texas oilfield industry relies on heavy equipment, such as drilling rigs, bulldozers, cranes, and trucks, to extract, transport, and process oil and gas. While these machines are essential for productivity, they pose significant risks to workers and the environment.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) noted that Texas leads the country in oilfield-related deaths. The report indicated that the state experienced 219 oilfield deaths, followed by 48 fatalities in Oklahoma.

The sheer size and power of heavy equipment make them potential hazards in the oilfield. A heavy equipment crash can lead to severe injuries and fatalities. Workers operating or working near these machines risk being struck, crushed, or caught in machinery, especially when working in confined spaces or under tight deadlines.

Moreover, the operation of heavy equipment can have adverse environmental consequences. Mishandling or spills of fuels, oils, and chemicals from these machines can contaminate soil and water sources, posing a significant threat to the surrounding ecosystem.

Texas’s challenging terrain and weather conditions further exacerbate the risks associated with heavy equipment operations. Slippery surfaces, extreme temperatures, and sudden weather changes can increase the likelihood of accidents and equipment failures.

To reduce the risk of heavy equipment injury, oilfield operators must prioritize rigorous safety training, regular equipment maintenance, and strict adherence to safety protocols.

Environmental safeguards, including proper waste disposal and spill response plans, are also crucial for minimizing the ecological impact of heavy equipment used in Texas oilfields.

Liability for a Heavy Equipment Crash 

In Texas, liability for heavy equipment crashes typically follows principles of negligence and strict liability, with various laws and regulations governing these cases. Liability may be attributed to multiple parties involved, including the equipment operator, owner, manufacturer, and others.


If the heavy equipment crash resulted from the negligent actions of an operator or a party responsible for maintaining the equipment, they may be held liable. Negligence claims often consider operator training, adherence to safety procedures, and equipment maintenance.

Product Liability

Product liability laws may come into play if a defect in the heavy equipment’s design or manufacturing caused the crash. Texas follows strict liability principles, meaning that a manufacturer can be held liable for injuries caused by a defective product without proving negligence.

Employer Liability

If the heavy equipment operator worked for an employer during the crash, the employer may also be held liable for its employee’s actions under vicarious liability principles. Employers are legally required to ensure their employees are properly trained and equipped to operate heavy machinery safely.

Third-Party Liability

In some cases, third parties, such as maintenance companies or contractors responsible for equipment upkeep, may be held liable if their negligence contributed to the crash.

Government Liability

Government entities responsible for road maintenance could be liable if the crash occurred due to poorly maintained roads or inadequate signage on public highways.

It is important to note that Texas law regarding liability for heavy equipment crashes can be complex and varies depending on the specific circumstances of each case. 

Common Oilfield Equipment

Oilfield workers use various equipment to extract crude oil and natural gas from the earth’s depths. Understanding these pieces of equipment and the risks they pose to workers is crucial for ensuring safety in this hazardous environment.

Drilling Rigs

One common piece of equipment found in oilfields is the drilling rig. This towering structure drills wells deep into the earth’s crust. Drilling rigs contain various components, including the derrick, mast, and drill string. The derrick supports the drilling apparatus, while the mast houses the machinery that drives the drill bit into the ground. The drill string, composed of interconnected pipes, circulates drilling fluids and aids in extracting drilled materials.

Working on a drilling rig exposes workers to several risks. The structure’s height poses a fall hazard, and the heavy machinery involved in drilling operations presents crush and entanglement hazards. The high-pressure drilling fluids used in the process can also cause severe injuries if not handled properly.


Another essential piece of common oilfield equipment is the pumpjack, also known as a “nodding donkey” or “horsehead pump.” Pumpjacks extract crude oil from underground reservoirs by lifting it to the surface mechanically. These devices consist of a central pump connected to a series of sucker rods, which extend deep into the wellbore.

While pumpjacks are critical for oil extraction, they also pose significant risks to workers. The moving parts of the machinery can cause crush injuries. Exposure to the chemicals used in the extraction process can result in respiratory problems and skin irritation.

Storage Tanks

Storage tanks are another common feature of oilfields that store crude oil, natural gas, and various chemicals. These tanks come in various sizes and shapes, ranging from small above-ground tanks to massive cylindrical structures. Storage tanks are typically steel and have safety features such as pressure relief valves and containment berms.

Despite their importance, storage tanks can be dangerous. The confined spaces within tanks can pose a suffocation risk due to the accumulation of toxic gasses or a lack of oxygen. In addition, leaks or spills from storage tanks can result in environmental contamination and fire hazards.

Pipelines and Flowlines

In addition to drilling rigs, pumpjacks, and storage tanks, oilfields contain various pipelines and flowlines to transport crude oil and natural gas from the extraction site to processing facilities. These pipelines consist of interconnected steel or plastic tubing sections buried underground or suspended above ground on supports.

Working with pipelines and flowlines exposes workers to risks such as punctures, cuts, and burns from contact with sharp edges or hot surfaces. Leaks or ruptures in pipelines can release flammable gasses, posing explosion and fire hazards to nearby workers.
As you can see, common oilfield equipment plays a vital role in extracting and transporting crude oil and natural gas. However, it also presents significant risks to workers due to hazards such as falls, crush injuries, chemical exposure, confined spaces, and flammable gasses. By understanding these risks and implementing appropriate safety measures, oilfield workers can minimize the likelihood of accidents and injuries in this challenging work environment.

Non-Subscriber Claims Against Texas Employers

Under certain circumstances, you can sue your employer for an oilfield injury in Texas. While Texas has a workers’ compensation system that benefits injured workers, some exceptions allow employees to sue their employers for injuries sustained on the job.

Some Texas employers choose not to subscribe to the state’s workers’ compensation system. These “non-subscriber” employers do not provide workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers.

In such cases, injured employees may have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer to seek compensation for their injuries.

Further, even if your employer is a subscriber to the workers’ compensation system, you may still have the option to sue them if you can prove that their actions constituted gross negligence.

Gross negligence implies that your employer knowingly disregarded safety regulations or acted recklessly, leading to your injury. In such cases, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against your employer.

It is essential to consult with an attorney experienced in Texas workers’ compensation and personal injury law to evaluate your specific situation. They can determine whether you have grounds for a lawsuit against your employer and help guide you through the legal process.

Learn More About Personal Injury Cases Involving Heavy Equipment Accidents

If you or someone you love was recently injured in an accident involving a piece of heavy equipment or machinery, reach out to the dedicated Houston workplace injury lawyers at the law firm of Armstrong Lee & Baker, LLP. We take pride in ensuring that our clients are given the respect and attention they deserve.

Our team possesses years of experience handling cases of all shapes and sizes, including even the most complex heavy equipment accidents.

We believe that there is no substitute for hard work, meaning that we will devote as much time, energy, and resources to your case to make sure that you recover the financial damages you need, deserve, and are legally entitled to.

To learn more and schedule a free consultation with one of our Houston heavy equipment accident lawyers, give us a call today. You can also connect with our injury lawyers by completing our secure online contact form.

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Scott Armstrong obtains remarkable results for his clients.  He has successfully tried numerous cases to favorable verdicts and reached significant settlements on his clients’ behalf.  In the process, he has recovered millions for his clients.