Efforts to Cap and Contain Gulf Coast Oil Spill Welcomed But Maritime Worker Safety Also Important, Says Houston Lawyer

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Maritime law attorney Kurt Arnold of Arnold & Itkin LLP applauds the steps being taken to clean up the oil pollution, but wants to be sure offshore workers are not put in harm’s way.

It’s important to clean up the leaking oil, and we are all anxious for success to protect and preserve our Gulf Coast beaches and marine life. But whenever you are pushing the envelope of technical know-how, you run greater risk to your workers.

Workers trying to seal a blown-out oil well spewing thousands of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico face serious risk of injury because of the challenging work environment and complexity of the task, Houston maritime attorney Kurt Arnold said.

“The job of offshore workers is dangerous under the best of circumstances,” said Arnold, a founding partner of Arnold & Itkin LLP, a Houston law firm that represents injured maritime workers. “In this instance, they are trying to cap a leaking oil well nearly a mile below the surface and near to a collapsed and unstable oil platform. It’s important to clean up the leaking oil, and we are all anxious for success to protect and preserve our Gulf Coast beaches and marine life. But whenever you are pushing the envelope of technical know-how, you run greater risk to your workers.”

The Deepwater Horizon, a massive oil rig owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased to BP PLC, was drilling about 52 miles southeast of Venice, La., in 5,000 feet of water April 20 when the rig exploded. Most of the 126-member crew escaped from the burning rig, which eventually collapsed and sank. Eleven crew members are missing and presumed dead and 17 others were injured, some critically.

Since the blast, Louisiana-based BP has dispatched dozens of vessels including oil skimmers, barges, tug boats and special recovery boats to try to contain the oil spill that has created iridescent red streaks on the Gulf of Mexico's surface over roughly 1,800 square miles. Concern was increasing that the oil slick drifting slowly north could threaten the coast of Louisiana within a few days.

Workers using robotic submarines have been trying to activate a shutoff device to cap the underwater well nearly a mile beneath the surface but have been unsuccessful so far. Leaks have been fixed at that depth before, but the process remains difficult.

Last week, BP mobilized two rigs to drill a second well to redirect the oil flow and take pressure off the blown-out well, but that effort will take several months.

“Oil rig workers have proven time and again that they can accomplish amazing things,” Arnold said. “But these are complex operations and there are no dress rehearsals for capping a well nearly a mile underwater. As the companies work to clean up oil from the leaks, it’s imperative that they observe proper safety precautions to avoid putting workers in harm’s way and magnifying the injuries and deaths from the original explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.”

The cause of that explosion remains under investigation.

About Arnold & Itkin LLP

The lawyers at Arnold & Itkin LLP, a personal injury law firm based in Houston, Texas, understand the complexities and legalities of maritime law and have a successful track record of verdicts and settlements in favor of maritime workers. The firm provides legal guidance on all aspects of maritime law and the benefits offshore workers are entitled to under the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, the principle of maintenance and cure, or the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

The firm handles maritime claims at port cities along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The firm can be contacted toll free at (866) 222-2606 or online through the firm's Web site.

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