While the oil and gas industry is frequently in the news, most often the stories are about fluctuations in the price of oil and gas. Only when major disasters strike does the public focus on occupational injuries and illnesses in the oil and gas extraction industry.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces data that track the number of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) publishes a complete count of all deaths that result from injuries at work in all sectors of the economy. The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) uses employer-reported data to estimate counts and incidence rates of nonfatal injuries and illnesses for the private, state government, and local government sectors. The SOII includes summary-level industry data for OSHA recordable injury and illness cases and also includes data on the detailed case circumstances and worker characteristics for cases involving days away from work. Data from CFOI and SOII were used for this report.
Recent emphasis by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on safety in the oil and gas extraction industry has highlighted the hazards faced by workers in this industry.1 The oil and gas extraction industry is not as easy to define as one might think, but researchers generally define it as the three industry groups from two different subsectors in the North American Industry Classification System2: Oil and Gas Extraction (NAICS 211), Drilling Oil and Gas Wells (213111), and Support Activities for Oil and Gas Operations (213112). The oil and gas extraction industries included in these NAICS industries are primarily associated with “upstream” activities and do not include refineries and other industries typically associated with “downstream” activities. BLS data on fatal injuries in the industry are an aggregation of fatalities in these three industries. Nonfatal injury and illness data are available for the same industries. However, variances have not been calculated for this group. Therefore, these nonfatal injuries and illnesses are not presented as a combined total in this fact sheet.
Under this definition, data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) show that employment in the oil and gas industry grew by 71 percent from 2003 to 2011, when it employed nearly half a million workers. Support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112) accounted for 48 percent of employment in 2011, while oil and gas extraction (NAICS 211) accounted for 34 percent, and drilling oil and gas wells (NAICS 213111) accounted for 17 percent.
The private mining industry accounted for 155 fatal occupational injuries in 2011. The oil and gas extraction industries accounted for over 70 percent of those fatalities.
From 2003 to 2011, the latest year for which final numbers are available, the number of fatal occupational injuries in the private oil and gas industries ranged from as high as 125 in 2006 to as low as 68 in 2009. There were 112 fatal injuries in the oil and gas industry in 2011. Over the 5-year period from 2007 to 2011, there were 529 fatal injuries in the oil and gas industries. Texas recorded the highest number of fatalities, followed by Oklahoma and Louisiana. The table below provides a list of the 10 states with the highest number of oil and gas fatalities from 2007 to 2011. State industry counts should not be compared because of the large differences in employment and industry composition from state to state. Trends in the oil and gas extraction industries have been changing, with New Mexico and North Dakota seeing a larger increase than in years past.
|Number of Fatal Injuries 2007-2011
|Employment in 2011(3)
In 2011, 70 percent of the oil and gas workers killed on the job were white, non-Hispanic, and 25 percent were Hispanic or Latino. Men accounted for all of these fatal work injuries in 2011. Transportation incidents led to just under half of the workplace fatalities in 2011 (51 fatalities) in the oil and gas industries. Contact with objects and equipment accounted for 26 fatalities in 2011, with the majority of these resulting from being struck by object or equipment. Fires or explosions resulted in 12 fatal injuries. In 2011, 17 of the 112 fatal occupational injuries in the oil and gas industries were due to multiple fatality events in which at least two workers were killed in the same incident.
Oil and gas extraction (NAICS 211) recorded 13 fatal work injuries in 2011. Support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112) accounted for a little more than half of the 112 fatal work injuries in the oil and gas extraction industries in 2011, with 58 fatal work injuries. Another 41 fatal work injuries were reported for drilling oil and gas wells (NAICS 213111) in 2011.
Fatal injury rates are often used to examine relative frequency. To construct these rates, CFOI uses fatal work injury counts along with employment and hours data from the Current Population Survey (CPS).4 The CPS does not provide employment estimates for drilling oil and gas wells (NAICS 213111) or for support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112); thus, an overall rate for the oil and gas industries cannot be calculated.
There were an estimated 1,400 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in oil and gas extraction (NAICS 211) in 2011. In activities supporting oil and gas extraction (NAICS 213111 and 213112), there were an estimated 8,500 nonfatal injuries and illnesses. Of these, the majority (about 5,900) were in the support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112). Drilling oil and gas wells (NAICS 213111) accounted for about 2,600 nonfatal injuries and illnesses.
In 2011, the total recordable rate of injuries and illnesses for support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112) was 2.1 cases per 100 full-time workers, and the rate for drilling oil and gas wells (NAICS 213111) was 3.0 cases per 100 full-time workers. This compares to a rate of 3.5 cases for all private industries combined.
A subset of total recordable injury and illness cases are days-away-from-work cases, which are presumed to be the most severe nonfatal cases. In 2011, the incidence rate in support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112) was 0.8 cases per 100 full-time workers—significantly greater than the rate in the oil and gas extraction industry (NAICS 211), with a rate of 0.4 cases per 100 full-time workers. There were significantly more cases reported in support activities for oil and gas operations, with 2,150 days-away-from-work cases compared with 590 cases reported in oil and gas extraction. The incidence rate for drilling oil and gas wells was 0.9 cases per 100 full-time workers—statistically the same as the rate for support activities for oil and gas operations. A smaller number of days-away-from-work cases occurred in drilling oil and gas wells (213111), with 780 cases. The incidence rates in support activities for oil and gas operations and drilling oil and gas wells were statistically the same as the rate for all private industry, at 1.1 cases per 100 full-time workers.
Median days away from work is a key measure of severity of nonfatal injuries and illnesses. In 2011, the support activities for oil and gas operations industry, the component of oil and gas extraction industries with the most cases requiring days away from work, had a median days away from work of 24, which was 3 times higher than the median of 8 days for all industries. One reason for the high median days away from work in the industry was that 24 percent of injuries and illnesses with days away from work were fractures, which typically have a long recovery time. Workers were frequently injured by being struck by objects (35 percent of cases).
The details of the case circumstances and worker characteristics data are reported for cases involving days away from work, in addition to summary industry data. In the three industry subsectors, occupational injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work occurred to a variety of workers including extraction workers, metal or plastic workers, motor vehicle operators, material movers, and others. In the industries providing support activities for oil and gas operations, 50 percent of those who became injured or ill were extraction workers, 13 percent were material movers, and 9 percent were metal or plastic workers. In cases in which the worker’s race was reported, injured or ill workers in this industry were mostly white, non-Hispanic (about three-fifths of cases that reported race listed the race of the injured or ill person as white, non-Hispanic).
More information on injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the oil and gas industries is available at www.bls.gov/iif or (202) 691-6170.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), April 15, 2014. Fatality data are from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Nonfatal injury and illness data are from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.
3 Employment data presented in the table are from the QCEW and are the summation of NAICS 211, 213111, and 213112, to be comparable to the fatal injury data presented in the table. Employment data in previous years are similar in proportion to the 2011 data.
4 The CPS is a household survey that the Census Bureau conducts for the BLS. Because it is more challenging to obtain detailed industry descriptions from household survey respondents than from business survey respondents, the Census Bureau has developed its own industry classification for household surveys. This Census industry classification is consistent in structure with the NAICS, but significantly less detailed. The Census industry classification does not include an equivalent for NAICS 213111 or NAICS 213112. As such, the requisite employment data are not available to calculate fatal injury rates for NAICS 213111 and NAICS 213112.
Last Modified Date: April 15, 2014