Fact Sheet | Oil and Gas Industry | April 2010
Oil and Gas Industry Fatal and Nonfatal Occupational Injuries
Oil and gas industries are frequently in the news. Much of the time this news is
related to changes in prices of oil and gas, which affect most consumers in one way
or another. Another less frequent subject of media attention is when disasters strike,
as in the offshore oil drilling platform explosion and fire on April 20, 2010, and
previous incidents such as the Clearbrook, Minnesota pipeline fire in 2007 and the Texas
City, Texas refinery explosion in 2005.
According to the North American Industry
Classification System, the oil and gas extraction
industry is classified in mining, as all mining industries are focused on extracting natural
resources from the earth. Drilling oil and gas wells and support activities for oil and gas
operations are classified under support activities for mining. Fatal injury data include oil
and gas extraction, drilling oil and gas wells, and support activities for oil and gas
extraction. Nonfatal injury and illness data only include drilling oil and gas wells.
Occupational injuries and fatalities associated with fires and explosions are rare events.
The overall rate of injuries and illnesses with days away from work due to fires and
explosions in all industries was 0.2 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2008, composed of
2,320 cases with days away from work. There were 174 fatal injuries due to fires and
explosions in 2008, 18 of which were in the oil and gas industry1 .
Fatal Work Injuries
A total of 120 fatal work injuries occurred in the oil and gas extraction industry in 2008.
The three most frequent fatal events in 2008 were transportation incidents (41 percent),
contact with objects and equipment (25 percent), and fires and explosions (15 percent). The
number of fatal work injuries associated with fires and explosions over the past five years
ranged from 10 fatalities in 2007 to 21 fatalities in 2006. In 2008, there were 18 fatalities.
Of the transportation incidents in 2008, three-quarters involved highway incidents. There
were four fatal work injuries where a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment
and five aircraft fatal work injuries in 2008. Workers who were fatally injured after being
struck by objects and equipment accounted for 22 of the 30 fatal work injuries involving contact
with objects and equipment.
In 2008, multiple-fatal work injury events accounted for 24 worker deaths in 10 different
incidents. More than half of these deaths were caused by transportation events, while a third
were from fires and explosions.
Men accounted for all of these fatal work injuries in 2008. Workers age 25 to 34 incurred
the most fatal work injuries (48 fatalities or 40 percent in 2008). The majority of the workers
were White, non-Hispanic (75 percent), while 17 percent were Hispanic or Latino2 . Ten fatally
injured workers were foreign born in 2008.
The three states with the most oil and gas extraction industry fatal work injuries in 2008
were Texas (41 fatal work injuries), Oklahoma (21 fatal work injuries), and Louisiana (13 fatal
work injuries). Over the five-year period of 2004-2008, Oklahoma fatal work injuries in the
industry have increased 91 percent, while Texas has increased by 21 percent and Louisiana by 30 percent.
Support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112) account for about half of fatal
work injuries from 2004 to 2008 in oil and gas industries on average, with 69 fatal work injuries
recorded in 2008. Drilling oil and gas wells (NAICS 213111) averaged 34 fatal work injuries over
the five-year period, with 37 percent of fatal work injuries resulting from contact with objects
of equipment. Oil and Gas Extraction (NAICS 211111) had an average of 21 fatal work injuries.
Drilling oil and gas wells (NAICS 213111) is a distinct industry from oil and gas production,
and is classified under support activities for mining. Establishments in this industry are
primarily engaged in drilling oil and gas wells for others on a contract or fee basis. This industry
includes contractors that specialize in spudding in, drilling in, redrilling, and directional drilling.
From 2003 to 2007, the most recent data available for drilling oil and gas wells, the number of total
recordable cases of nonfatal injuries and illnesses ranged between 2,400 in 2003 and 4,700 in 2005, with
2007 having 4,200 cases. The rate of injuries and illnesses ranged from 4.0 per 100 full-time workers in
2003 to 6.8 in 2004, with a rate of 4.6 in 2007. This is a little higher than the rate of 4.2 per 100
full-time workers for all industries.
The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses collects case and demographic information on cases
with days away from work. These are presumed to be the most severe cases. The rate of these cases in
drilling oil and gas wells ranged from 1.5 in 2003 to 2.8 in 2004. The most recent rate was 1.7 per 100
full-time workers in 2007.
The most recent data show that the affected workers in this industry are overwhelmingly men (all
of 2007 cases with days away from work affected men), and where race was reported, mostly white (74
percent of cases that reported race).
Median days away from work are a key measure of severity of injuries and illnesses. In 2007, the
drilling oil and gas wells industry had a median of 30, much higher than the median for all industries
of 7. One reason for the high median days away from work is that 25 percent of injuries and illnesses
with days away from work are fractures, which typically have a long recovery time. Commonly, workers
are injured by being struck by objects (32 percent of cases) or being caught in objects, equipment or
material (21 percent of cases).
More information on injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industries
is available at www.bls.gov/iif or (202) 691-6170.
PDF file of this Fact Sheet
Last Modified Date: April 23, 2010