The increased demand for and price of crude oil and natural gas have created a marked increase in drilling activity in the U.S. oil and gas industry. The high demand for crews and equipment has put additional pressures on the industry to use inexperienced workers and unsafe equipment. This has led to poor practices and unsafe work environments due to an increase in work injuries from blowouts, pipeline explosions, and other well site accidents.
Oil and gas workers often have to perform their job duties in locations high off the ground, which makes them more vulnerable to injuries associated with falls. Falls from drilling platforms, elevated equipment, and the mast can cause serious and life-threatening injuries.
Oil field workers are put at risk every day by flammable gases and vapors when these gasses are released from tanks, shale shakers, trucks, generators, engines, wells and other production or surface equipment. Fires and explosions can start when these materials come into contact with things such as lightning, static, cigarettes, welding and cutting tools, open flames, electrical sources and even hot surfaces. Employers can prevent catastrophic injuries to workers by conducting fire risk assessments, enforcing work safety guidelines and through the adoption of engineering controls.
Three out of five fatalities on well sites occur as a result of hazards associated with workers being struck, caught in and caught between moving vehicles or equipment, high-pressure lines and falling equipment. Cranes, derricks, hoists and other heavy equipment pose risks to workers on the job, as do other activities common in oilfields, including moving pipes, site clearing, transporting heavy loads and activities around pressurized lines.
Most oilfield deaths are related to transportation, especially when workers drive from one job site to another on unsafe rural roads. About 4 out of every 10 deaths on the job occur as a result of vehicle collisions. Employers are responsible for protecting workers by enforcing driver safety policies and developing work schedules to avoid dangers associated with driver fatigue.