Offshore drilling becomes more important as reserves of oil on shore shrink and get depleted. Oil is a finite resource, after all, so the industry has to shift and look for new and larger reserves to keep up with demand.
At the same time, offshore drilling is a very dangerous profession. The risk of serious injury and death is higher than it is in many on-shore jobs. Why isn't it safer, if it's so critically important? Below are four reasons:
First off, the systems and machines used to drill in the ocean are huge and complex. They often push down 18,000 feet past the floor, and they start at the ocean's surface. While only the platform is visible above, these are enormous structures. Anything that large, with that many moving parts, simply has far more areas where problems can occur and mistakes can be made. Dedicated crews can't always prevent dangerous accidents and malfunctions.
Drilling started fairly close to the shore, as a way to push from the constraints of dry land and find more oil. However, like the reserves on land, these don't last forever. The offshore rigs have to keep moving out. This means that, if there's an emergency, rescue crews simply aren't close. While a construction worker in the city may be minutes from a hospital, a worker on an oil rig who suffers the same injury isn't getting care for far longer.
3. Oil and gas.
You can't ignore that oil and gas themselves are dangerous. They're highly flammable and can be explosive under the right conditions. Between 2006 and 2010, one report claimed that there were 509 fires on oil rigs. That was just looking at those in the Gulf of Mexico. Working around these dangerous substances is unavoidable, but it also means workers are constantly in danger on the job.
One final thing that experts note is that oil companies, for all their experience in the industry in general, are always pushing the limits. They're using new technology. They're drilling in deeper water. They just do not have the experience needed in these areas to operate without incident. The 509 fires noted above prove that's the case.
Again, workers can't avoid this issue. The only way to get experience in deeper water is to move to deeper water and drill. Still, workers have to realize that they may be breaking new ground and that always breeds mistakes.
On top of that, the oil industry is incredibly demanding. Production is very important. When workers get injured, especially when the company has a production-first culture and not a safety-first culture, they must know all of their legal rights moving forward.