Highway Crashes Leading Cause of Oil and Gas Worker Deaths

Posted By The Carlson Law Firm || 9-Nov-2011

There is no doubt that working on oil fields, on oil rigs or at oil or natural gas well sites is dangerous work. The most deadly places for oil and gas workers, however, are actually on the roads. Highway crashes are the leading cause of death for oil and gas workers today. Many believe this is due to oil and gas industry exemptions from federal safety rules that prevent fatigued driving. As oil and gas drilling in the U.S. continues to grow, safety advocates are pushing for tougher rules to keep roads safe and prevent fatal truck accidents.

Quantifiable Dangers

Oil and gas workers face on-the-job hazards, like explosions or injury from heavy machinery, on a daily basis. The fatality rates of oil and gas employees are seven times higher than the national average for all industries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that fatality rates rose 15 percent during the oil and gas boom between 2003 and 2004. The CDC also indicated that in the last 10 years, highway crashes killed more than 300 oil and gas workers, making driving before, during or after work hours the deadliest part of the job.

Longer Shifts, More Risks

For oil and gas workers and truckers, long hours are a normal part of the job. Some say they are forced to drive shifts of 20 hours or longer, when the legal limit only permits shifts up to 14 hours. Many of the highway crashes involving oil and gas workers are directly caused by driver fatigue.

To make safety matters worse, the oil and gas industry is exempt from the federal hours-of-service regulations. These rules require commercial truck drivers to take breaks or rest for a certain number of hours before getting back on the road. For the last 50 years, oil companies have used these exemptions to push workers into dangerous driving situations. One oil service driver speaking out against the exemptions highlighted the fact that working on an oil field site does not make workers less prone to fatigue after long shifts.

Pushing for Protection

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) strongly opposes the commercial driving exemptions granted to oil field companies and workers because of the heightened risk of accidents. With the potential addition of over 200,000 oil and gas drill sites in the U.S. over the next 10 years, accidents may become even more frequent. Hopefully increasing awareness about the issue will prompt lawmakers to make the changes necessary to ensure the safety of oil and gas workers, as well as everyone on the road.


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