Occupational Health & Safety

Oil & Gas Extraction's Fatality Rate 7 Times Higher Than U.S. Average

MMWR published an analysis of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data for 2003-2010, which tabulated 128 deaths in offshore and on-shore operations.

CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has published an analysis of fatalities in the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry from 2003 to 2010. On-shore and offshore oil and gas operations had a collective fatality rate of 27.1 per 100,000 workers, seven times higher than for all U.S. workers (3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers).

The report utilized data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), finding that 128 fatalities in activities related to offshore oil and gas operations occurred during the period. Transportation events were the leading cause (51 percent), with 75 percent of these involving helicopters. Thirty-one (24 percent) of the fatalities occurred among workers whose occupations were classified as "transportation and material moving."

The oil and gas extraction industry includes three types of companies, defined according to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS): oil and gas operators who control and manage leased areas (NAICS 211), drilling contractors who drill the wells (NAICS 213111), and well-servicing companies who provide all other types of support operations that prepare a well for production and completion (NAICS 213112). A fatal injury is considered work-related if the event leading to the injury occurred while the employee was working, based on confirmation by two independent sources.

The total of 128 fatalities represents an average of 16 per year. All but one fatality occurred in Gulf of Mexico operations. After transportation events, the next leading causes for fatalities were contact with objects or equipment, fires and explosions, and exposure to harmful substances/environments.

The report's authors are Matthew M. Gunter, MA, Office of Safety, Health, and Working Conditions, Bureau of Labor Statistics; and Ryan Hill, MPH, Western States Office, Mary B. O'Connor, MS, Kyla D. Retzer, MPH, Jennifer M. Lincoln, Ph.D., Alaska Pacific Office, NIOSH.

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