There were over 423,000 workers employed by the oil and gas industry in 2011, the last year where data was officially recorded and released to the general public. Out of these workers, 823 workers were killed in a job-related accident or incident. That’s 7 times greater than the fatality rates of the average industry worker.
2011 wasn’t just a year where more accidents occurred. OSHA has tracked a similar multiplication of risk for oil and gas industry workers since the early 1990’s. Using specialized equipment, drilling and servicing a well that could be under extreme pressures is an occupation that takes on risks. Are these risks being properly managed?
Injury Rate Higher Than Normal Average
1. Despite the number of workers increasing in this field of industry, payroll levels lowered by 0.7% in 2012.
2. In British Columbia, Canada, the average length of work days lost per claim was more than double that of the average claim.
3. Nearly 40% of the fatal accidents and serious injuries that occur are transportation related.
Takeaway: Some jobs are simply more dangerous than others because of workplace conditions. That’s known going into a job like the oil and gas industry and some risks are assumed. Sometimes accidents occur simply because machines break or someone else runs a stop sign and smashes into a worker’s rig that is being transported to a new drilling spot. On the other hand, workers are being paid less and expected to work long hours, which create the conditions for worker-related accidents to happen more often.
1. 16% of all fatal accidents that occurred on an oil and gas work site happened to contract workers outside of full time company employment.
2. 54% of the total fatalities in this industry happened in construction or extraction jobs in 2011.
3. Texas, a state that is rich in energy, saw a record number of 531 worker-related deaths in 2012, the most of any state.
4. Other energy states, such as North Dakota, saw increases in worker-related fatalities as well.
5. Injuries that aren’t fatal in the oil and gas industry are lower than the industrial average, which means if there’s a work site accident, there’s a good chance it will kill someone.
6. Half of the fatalities that occurred during the transportation of oil and gas equipment happened because the driver or worker wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
7. Drivers in the oil and gas industry are often assigned work shifts of 20 hours or more.
Takeaway: What seems to be missing from the oil and gas industry is safety oversight. Other dangerous professions, such as mining, have seen reductions in worker fatality rates per 100,000 workers with direct oversight. There is no direct oversight in this industry, and combine that with a lack of apparent safety awareness, accidents occur and they are likely to be fatal.