Getting the Facts Straight on Oil & Gas Employee Safety

The safety of employees in every industry is critically important – one fatality or injury is one too many. Over the past few years, the oil and gas industry has partnered with federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to study workplace safety in order to ensure the safety and protection of its employees. This sort of collaborative effort is a critical aspect of industry’s continued drive toward a goal of zero injuries in the workplace.  The result? The oil and natural gas industry has created an ever improving climate of safe and responsible operations.

This week, the BLS released its 2013 figures for non-fatal injuries in the workplace. The oil and gas extraction industry can once again claim success in decreasing its injury rates.  E&E reported on the numbers asserting, “Energy firms and utilities have once again logged rates of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses lower than the national average.” The industry recognizes its work is not done until it achieves a zero rate of fatal and non-fatal injuries in the workplace. However, these facts demonstrate that it is well on its way.

The following information gives context to the industry’s robust safety record and provides clarity on some recent findings of best practices in worker safety. The details below convey the facts, much as we have done in past assessments.

It’s worth noting up front that the industry’s commitment to safety has been applauded by none other than the Chief of OSHA, who stated “This industry has stepped up to the plate” in driving down workforce injuries to levels not seen in four years.  This is all the more telling when one considers the massive uptick in energy exploration and development.  It is in this very context that we relay the numbers below and the conclusions that can be drawn from the occupational injury and fatality rates of recent years.

FACT: While oil production – and subsequently employment – has been on an unprecedented rise, fatal injuries have declined.

The Rise in Production and Employment

  • Since 2008, the U.S’s field production of crude oil has risen steadily from year to year. (EIA)
  • Total U.S. natural gas gross withdrawals reached a new high at 82 billion cubic feet per day in 2013. (EIA)
  • From 2007 to 2012, the oil and natural gas industry has seen a 40 percent increase in employment. (EIA)

Decline in Fatal Injuries

  • According the 2013 BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries:
  • Fatal work injuries in the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector were 15 percent lower in 2013 than they were in 2012.
  • The number of fatal workplace injury cases in the oil and gas extraction industry was over 20 percent lower in 2013.

FACT: High oil and gas production in a specific shale play is not correlated with a higher rate of workplace fatalities.

  • Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas producing state in the country, and the Marcellus Shale is now responsible for nearly one-fifth of all natural gas produced in the United States (Philadelphia Inquirer).
  • Between 2005 and 2012, 90 percent of the job growth in Pennsylvania was due to oil and gas development, according to Raymond James. (Pittsburgh Business Times)
  • According to an AFL-CIO report, Pennsylvania’s workplace fatality rate is at the national average, tied with Hawaii. (AFL-CIO)
  • Texas is the largest oil and gas producing state in the nation, yet its fatality rate is not in the top ten among states with the most occupational fatalities. (AFL-CIO)
  • Texas added over 19,000 new private sector jobs in the oil and gas industry in 2013 (EIA). However, Texas’s 2012 workplace injury rate of 2.7 per 100 workers is below the national average injury rate of 3.4 for every 100 workers. (AFL CIO)

FACT: Compared to other private industries, the oil and gas industry has a low workplace injury rate.

  • Oil and gas ranks well below other industries for worker risk, including fishing, bartending, and taxi and limo drivers, to name a few. (BLS)
  • According to the CDC: “Most segments of oil and gas extraction report a lower nonfatal injury rate than the average for private industry.” (CDC NIOSH)
  • In 2011, the injury rate for oil and natural gas extraction was 0.9 cases for every 100 workers, which is much less than the 2011 overall private industry average rate of 3.5 cases for every 100 workers. (BLS)
  • In 2013, the injury rate for oil and natural gas extraction was 1.3 cases for every 100 workers, while the overall private industry injury incident rate was 3.3 cases for every 100 workers. (BLS)



Note: In the chart above, oil and gas extraction falls under the “Mining” category.


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