Offshore Oilfield Work Deadly: Seven Times Deadlier than National Average
According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), workers in the offshore oil and gas extraction industry are far more likely to die on the job as workers in the rest of the economy. The data was published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report recently, and the safety picture for offshore oilfield work is rather grim.
The CDC took a good look at Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data regarding fatalities from 2003 through 2010, and found that 128 offshore oil workers had died on the job during that time period. That’s an average of about 16 deaths per year, and a workplace fatality rate of 27.1 deaths per 100,000 workers, as opposed to 3.8 per 100,000 for all workers in the rest of the economy. That makes oil and gas workers more than seven times more likely to die on the job than workers in the rest of the economy.
All of the 128 who died were men, and their mean age was 41.4 years. Over the time period, the number of worker fatalities stayed roughly flat, even though the number of active offshore rigs dropped by nearly 63%. The single greatest cause of death (65 workers, or 51%) for oil and gas rig workers over the time period was transportation-related, with 49 of those happening while transporting workers via helicopter. Those accidents were blamed almost entirely on weather or mechanical failure.
Among the other causes of worker deaths were the 21 who died when they were hit by equipment of objects, the 17 who died due to explosions or fires (including the 11 who died in the infamous Deepwater Horizon explosion), and the 16 who died due to exposure to dangerous chemicals or substances.
Federal safety authorities have taken a number of steps to alleviate some of the problems that have led to such a high fatality rate, but obviously more has to be done. Employers should not be settling for the minimum when it comes to worker safety, they should strive to be the safest workplaces anywhere. The federal government and the state of Texas need to work harder to reduce this horrible statistic.