Mortality Statistics for the US Upstream Industry: An Analysis of Circumstances, Trends, and Recommendations
- Kyla Retzer (NIOSH/CDC) | Ryan Hill (NIOSH/CDC) | George A. Conway (NIOSH/CDC)
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- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Americas E&P Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Conference, 21-23 March, Houston, Texas, USA
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- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2011. Not subject to copyright. This document was prepared by governmentemployees or with government funding that places it in the public domain.
- 3 Production and Well Operations, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 1.6 Drilling Operations
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Introduction: The U.S. oil and gas extraction industry has an elevated occupational fatality rate when compared to other industries, and this rate is correlated to the level of activity in the industry. This paper presents an analysis of worker fatalities in the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry for the years 2003-2008 and suggests strategies to prevent fatalities among the groups of workers most at risk of being killed on the job. Description of Processes: Fatality rates were calculated by year, company type, and company size. The frequency of fatal events onshore and offshore, by occupation, age group and contributing factors are also reported. Results: There were 648 fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry during 2003-2008; the majority (91%) occurred to onshore workers. Transportation-related events were the leading cause of death for all workers. Drilling contractors and companies that employed fewer than 20 workers had the highest fatality rates. Conclusions: This study found that the fatality rate in the oil and gas extraction industry remained elevated through 2008. Many of the fatalities were associated with three risk factors: seat belt non-use, workers being employed by small companies, and workers having been employed less than one year by their current company. Concentrating attention on these three risk factors could significantly decrease the number and rate of occupational fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry. The recommendations made in this paper can be implemented by companies at low or no cost and can be incorporated into existing safety and health policies and procedures.
The U.S. oil and gas extraction, or "upstream??, industry continues to have one of the highest occupational fatality rates of any U.S. industry. During 2007, 122 oil and gas extraction workers died on the job, resulting in a fatality rate of 28.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. This rate is over seven times higher than the rate for all U.S. industries (4.0 per 100,000), and almost three times higher than the fatality rate in the construction industry (10.8 per 100,000) during the same time period (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010). The high fatality rate in the oil and gas extraction industry may be a result of many factors, such as exposure to hazardous environments and conditions, physically demanding work, frequent contact with heavy tools and equipment, inexperienced workers, and long hours.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workers in the oil and gas extraction industry increased every year between 2003 and 2008, occurring in parallel with an increase in the number of active drilling and workover rigs. Between 2003 and 2008, there was a 62% increase in the number of workers employed in the oil and gas extraction industry (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009) and a 46% increase in the number of active drilling and workover rigs (Baker Hughes and Guiberson 2008). Since 2003, the oil and gas extraction fatality rate has varied from year to year, making it difficult to see a clear trend of increased or decreased fatality for workers in this industry. It has, however, been demonstrated previously that the fatality rate for oil and gas extraction workers is correlated with an increased level of activity in the industry, reflected by more active drilling and workover rigs (Curlee, Broulliard et al. 2005; Mode and Richardson 2006; Mode and Conway 2007; Mode and Conway 2008). The reasons for this correlation are thought to be the result of more inexperienced workers, longer work hours leading to worker fatigue, and work on more hazardous, older rigs in times of high demand.
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