Danger in the Oil Fields

Workers Compensation
Oil Field Worker Injuries

By Lynn Shapiro, Staff Writer

Global demand for oil and natural gas is booming, not only in the US, but also in developing countries like China, Russia and Brazil.

These resource and labor-rich countries are using oil and natural gas to power their industrial revolutions.

Their demand comes with a price paid by U.S.-based employees working in the oil and natural gas drilling and production industry, both on land and on off-shore rigs in an incredibly high-risk profession.

High Rate of Severe Injuries

Recent data published by Energy & Environment News indicates the oil and gas industry has “one of the highest rates of severe injuries in the country, and by some measures, the highest.

Verifying this report, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found while the rate of minor injuries in the industry were fewer than in other occupations, the incidence of serious injuries were “unacceptably high”, writes Dave Johnson of Industrial Hygiene News. (https://www.ishn.com/articles/98283-serious-injuries-and-fatalities-haunt-the-oil-and-gas-industry)

For example, between 2003 and 2009, the Bureau reported 716 fatalities, a rate 7 times higher than for all U.S. industries combined, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Johnson writes.

He says the industry was warned in 2013 by then-U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, who said, “Job gains in oil and gas have come with more fatalities, and that is unacceptable. We can and must do better.”

The most common injury seen in the analysis was amputation, most frequently fingers and fingertips.

The second most common injury was leg fracture. Other injuries include burns from fires and explosions, and struck-by injuries.

From January 2015 through October, 2016, a total of 503 such injuries were reported.

Many more injuries likely occurred, as 21 states were not included as reports in those states go to a state agency.

Excessive Heights on Derrick Boards and Drilling Rigs

Among fatal falls, 52 percent of employees fell from a height of more than 30 feet, and 35 percent fell from an unstable derrick board, an elevated work platform supporting machinery on the rig.

Trying to decrease these deaths, the CDC has directed companies to update their safety protection plans annually and to prioritize safety as a win-win situation for both businesses and their employees.

After all, keeping workers safe not only saves lives and limbs, it reduces injury payouts.

Lapses That Might Cause Injuries

The Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (http://www.industrialhygienenews.com/) lists these industry lapses that may result in injuries, including:

  • Transient employees may lack commitment or be unaware of corporate safety regulations.
  • Known as roughnecks, employees’ macho images may lead to recklessness. 
  • Isolated work sites whether offshore or in remote mainland locations, as well as long work days may contribute to substance abuse.
  • Outside contractors may ignore safety procedures.

Drilling, Equipping and Completing Wells is Dangerous

Please see the following chart from https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060053892. It shows severe injury rates for industries with more than 100,000 workers. The injury data reflect severe injuries reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from Jan. 1, 2015, through Oct. 31, 2016, the time period for which data are available. The employment numbers come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Employment and Wages, adjusted to remove states where injuries are reported to state agencies rather than OSHA.


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