During 2003-2010 in the US oil and gas industry
During 2003-2010, the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry (onshore and offshore, combined) had a collective fatality rate seven times higher than for all U.S. workers (27.1 versus 3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers).
The 11 lives lost in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion provide a reminder of the hazards involved in offshore drilling. To identify risk factors to offshore oil and gas extraction workers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), a comprehensive database of fatal work injuries, for the period 2003-2010.
This report describes the results of that analysis, which found that 128 fatalities in activities related to offshore oil and gas operations occurred during this period.
Transportation events were the leading cause (65 [51%]); the majority of these involved aircraft (49 [75%]). Nearly one fourth (31 [24%]) of the fatalities occurred among workers whose occupations were classified as “transportation and material moving.”To reduce fatalities in offshore oil and gas operations, employers should ensure that the most stringent applicable transportation safety guidelines are followed.
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).
During 2003-2010, a total of 128 fatalities occurred in activities related to offshore oil and gas operations in the United States, an average of 16 per year. All but one fatality occurred in Gulf of Mexico operations. All decedents were male with a mean age of 41.4 years. The majority were non-Hispanic whites (101 [79%]). Despite a 63% decrease in the number of active offshore drilling rigs during 2003-2010, the number of annual fatalities during offshore operations remained stable, resulting in a statistically significant increase in the number of fatalities per rig rate (please view figure below)
Transportation events were the leading cause of fatalities (65 [51%]), followed by contact with objects or equipment (21 [16%]), fires and explosions (17 [13%]), and exposure to harmful substances/environments (16 [13%])
Seventy-five percent of transportation events were associated with aircraft, all of which were helicopters (49 fatalities). Seventeen helicopter events occurred; 11 of these resulted in 43 (88%) of the fatalities. CFOI narratives noted that mechanical failure or loss of engine power was associated with five events (eight fatalities), and bad weather played a role in three of the events (seven fatalities). In five events, a total of nine fatalities involved occupants who survived the initial impact but later drowned. All of the helicopter events occurred in Gulf of Mexico offshore operations.
Two thirds of the fatalities involved workers employed in the oil and gas extraction industry (87 [68%]). Of those, half involved workers employed by well servicing companies (43 [49%]), followed by drilling contractors (26 [30%]), and oil and gas operators (18 [21%]).
The remainder involved workers in offshore oil and gas operations who were classified as employees in another industry, including transportation and warehousing (23 [18%]), construction (10 [8%]), and all other industries (eight [6%]).
Nearly one fourth (31 [24%]) of the decedents worked in occupations classified as “transportation and material moving” that transported workers and their equipment to and from offshore drilling platforms.
Number and rate of fatal injuries among workers involved in offshore oil and gas operations (N = 128), by year – United States, 2003-2010*
Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Baker Hughes, Inc., North America Rotary Rig Count.
The figure above shows the number and rate of fatal injuries among workers involved in offshore oil and gas operations (N = 128), by year, in the United States during 2003-2010. Despite a 63% decrease in the number of active offshore drilling rigs during 2003-2010, the number of annual fatalities during offshore operations remained stable, resulting in a statistically significant increase in the fatality rate.
What is already known on this topic?
The oil and gas extraction industry has an elevated occupational fatality rate that is consistently among the highest of any U.S. industry. The causes of the most frequent fatalities among onshore oil and gas extraction workers are well known. However, little is known about the unique risk factors faced by workers during offshore oil and gas operations.
What is added by this report?
During 2003-2010, a total of 128 fatalities occurred among offshore oil and gas workers. Transportation fatalities (65 [51%]) were the most common. A total of 49 (75%) transportation fatalities were associated with helicopters. All of the helicopter fatalities occurred in Gulf of Mexico operations.
What are the implications for public health practice?
Employers should ensure that the transportation safety guidelines developed by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers are followed. Pilots and passengers should wear life jackets during flights over water and complete helicopter underwater escape training, and helicopters should be equipped with survival equipment specific to their operating environment.
Above analysis is part of article on Fatal Injuries in Offshore Oil and Gas Operations issued by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention