What We Know About Oil and Gas Worker Injuries and Deaths

An April 2014 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explores injuries and fatalities among oil and gas workers between 2007-2011. The statistics provided by the report show that Texas, not surprisingly, had the greatest number of fatalities in those years among oil and gas employees. The only other state that came close was Oklahoma.

Worker Fatalities

We know something about the 199 workers who died in the oil and gas producing states in the U.S. in 2011. All were men, and 70 percent of them were white, non-Hispanic, with 25 percent being Hispanic. Other statistics include the most common types of accidents that lead to their deaths in 2011:

  • Transportation accidents killed slightly less than 50 percent (51 deaths) in 2011
  • Accidents involving contact with objects and equipment accounted for 26 deaths in 2011, or 23 percent
  • Fires and explosions caused 12 fatalities in 2011, or 11 percent

Where did these fatalities occur? According to the BLS report, drilling wells accounted for 41 fatalities in 2011. Oil and gas extraction accounted for around half of the fatalities, while oil and gas extraction accounted for 13 deaths.

Worker Injuries

Switching to non-fatal injuries, the BLS reported about 12,500 oil and gas worker injuries in 2011. The largest number of these occurred among people working in jobs supporting oil and gas extraction - 5,900. There were about 2,600 non-fatal injuries and illnesses among workers involved in drilling oil and gas wells.

The BLS was able to calculate the injury rate. Remarkably, the injury rate for oil and gas workers is less than the injury for all industries combined. Depending on the sector of the industry - extraction, drilling or support activities - the injury rate ranged from 2.1 cases per 100 full-time workers to 3 cases per 100 workers. In contrast, the rate for all industries is 3.5 injuries for every 100 workers. The BLS is not able to calculate the fatality rates nationwide because of anomalies in how the different states report injuries.

Although the injury rate in the oil and gas industry is less than the rate in all industries combined, the severity of the injuries is far greater than the national average, as measured by the median number of days away from work. For example, workers supporting oil and gas operations had a median 24 days away from work after being injured, three times the national average across all industries.

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