Injury Risk among Oil and Gas Extraction Workers by Company Type and Size
- Ryan Hill (NIOSH/CDC) | George A. Conway (National Institute for Occupational Saftey and Health) | Philip Somervell (CDC/NIOSH)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Americas E&P Environmental and Safety Conference, 23-25 March, San Antonio, Texas
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2009. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 1.6 Drilling Operations, 3 Production and Well Operations, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
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The oil and gas extraction industry employs 400,000 workers. During 2003-2007, the fatality rate among oil and gas extraction workers was nearly eight times that for all U.S. workers (30.0 vs. 4.0 per 100,000 workers). Occupational fatality rates among these workers are high, and vary with the level of drilling activity. In addition, injury risk may be associated with other factors, such as company type and size. The purpose of this study was to characterize the differences in risk of fatal injury according to company type and size during 2003-2007. Methods: Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries were utilized for this study. Company size was defined as small (fewer than 20 workers); medium (20-99 workers), and large (100 or more). For company type, companies were characterized as operators, drilling contractors and service companies. Relative risks were calculated to compare occupational fatality rates among different groups of companies. Results: Workers employed by small companies were three and five times as likely to suffer a fatal injury compared with workers from medium and large companies, respectively. There were also substantial differences between company types, independent of company size. Workers employed by drilling contractors were most at risk of fatal injury. The fatality rate in drilling companies was three times that for operators, and 1.5 times the rate among service companies. The size effect held true within each company type; the company type effect held true among small companies. Conclusions: The workers at highest risk were those employed by small companies, particularly small drilling contractors. These findings may help safety professionals develop workplace solutions and conduct outreach and training for the industry's most at-risk workers.
The oil and gas extraction industry employs over 400,000 workers in the U.S. on both offshore and land drilling and workover rigs, comprising the largest part of the U.S. mining industry. The level of activity in this industry has grown in recent years, resulting in an increase in employment and a corresponding increase in both the number and rate of fatal injuries. During 2003-2007, the annual number of active drilling and workover rigs increased by 28% (Baker Hughes Incorporated 2008), and the estimated number of employees in oil and gas extraction increased by 32% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2003). The annual fatality rate in this industry was 30.5 deaths per 100,000 workers during 2003-2006, almost eight times higher than the rate in all U.S. industries (4.0), and nearly equal to the fatality rate in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector during the same time period (30.9) (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008).
The hazardous machinery and tasks, including driving, have resulted in elevated occupational fatality rates in the oil and gas extraction industry. Although changes in the industry classification system in 2003 make it difficult to interpret long term trends, it is clear that the fatality rate in this industry is also highly variable. In fact, over the past decade, the annual rate varied by more than 100% (15/100,000 in 1999 to 32/100,000 in 2006). This variation is correlated with the level of activity in the industry (Curlee, Broulliard et al. 2005; Mode and Richardson 2006; Mode and Conway 2007; CDC 2008). Higher fatality rates are associated with a larger number of active drilling and workover rigs. This has been hypothesized to be a result of an increase in the proportion of inexperienced workers, longer working hours (more overtime), and the utilization of all available rigs (including older equipment with fewer safeguards).
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