More sector oversight necessary amid hundreds of oil, gas industry deaths, U.S. report finds


More sector oversight necessary amid hundreds of oil, gas industry deaths, U.S. report finds

1 of 2 | A federal report on fatalities in the oil and gas industry found most of the deaths were related to vehicle accidents. The media, meanwhile, missed out on reporting on many severe accidents. File photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

With nearly 500 on-site deaths in the oil and gas industry over six years, more stringent safety measures are necessary, a U.S. government report published Tuesday says.

The United States is among the world leaders in terms of oil and gas production. As an exporter, the country this year leap-frogged its peers to become the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world.

The study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found 470 people working in the oil and gas industry from 2014-2019 lost their lives on the job.

The data was published in the CDC’s weekly Mortality and Morbidity Report.

Focusing on the upstream side of the segment, the part of the energy sector dealing with exploration and production, the agencies said workers operate in a unique and challenging environment, though there’s so far been a lack of research into occupational safety.

“[Oil and gas extraction] workers face elevated fatal occupational injury rates that are historically seven times higher than for all U.S. workers,” the report said.

“OGE workers have physically demanding jobs, are exposed to hazardous chemicals and flammable and toxic gases, experience long commutes, engage in shift work, and work outdoors in all environmental conditions.”

Past events show offshore operations are risky, though fatalities are rare. One person was killed and three others were treated for injuries after an explosion on the Echo Platform in the Gulf of Mexico in 2014.

During the prior year, no major injuries occurred after the collapse of a rig owned by Hercules Offshore. Among the worst environmental disasters of its kind, 11 workers were killed as a direct result of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2011.

Of the 470 fatalities reported during the study period, 27% were vehicle incidents and 14% were related to explosions. About 75% of the total fatalities were among contractors, and around 20% were reported for workers operating alone on the job.

Most worker fatalities were identified first by the OSHA, with the news media accounting for only 7% of the reports. Some 17% of the total fatalities, meanwhile, included more than one death.

The federal report said continued surveillances of industry accidents could prevent further calamities.

“Robust safety and health management systems, a positive workplace safety culture, and collaboration among government, academic institutions and industry partners are essential to improving worker safety,” the report said.


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