Schweigert, Klemin & McBride, P.C.

Oil and gas industries among the most dangerous, numbers confirm

The oil and gas industry has a reputation for being dangerous. Combining heavy machinery with long hours and conditions that are difficult to predict can lead to less-than-safe situations. But what exactly do the figures say? Do they confirm this widely held assumption?

Turns out, they do. Well, it depends on which numbers are presented, apparently. According to a recent article by E&E News, data from the oil and gas industry pushes numbers that shows their injuries are in line with other industries across the country. But a recent report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) shows that the data is consistent with a high rate of worker fatalities. 

What the numbers say

OSHA defines a severe industry as one that causes hospitalization or a loss of a body part—most often the amputation of fingers or fingertips, or fractures.

In terms of the numbers, there were 349 reported severe injuries in the “support activities for oil and gas operations” industry—which includes contractors who drill, build or frack wells. In relative terms, that amounts to a rate per 100,000 workers of 148.9 (the average annual employment for the industry was reported at 234,403).

This rate is higher than in related industries, including construction, trucking and freight.

An improved safety record?

Even though injuries are high, they decreased in 2016. While this may be consistent with an expanded emphasis on worker safety, 2016 also saw a sharp decline in oilfield employment, as many companies employed fewer workers following the boon of previous years and the decline in oil prices.

In addition, oil and gas remains a strange field when it comes to worker safety. While it has a high fatality rate, it has actually a very low injury rate, leading many places to exclude it as “high-hazard work.”

Finally, it remains to be seen how accurate employers are in regards to their self-reported injury rates.

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