Worker Safety Remains the First Priority for Oil, Gas Companies

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The always-important issue of safety is on the front burner as more young workers are hired into the industry.

Safety is first among every oil and gas company. Regardless of whether an employee works in the field, on a rig, or in a high-rise office, they will be reminded time and time again just how important the safety of every employee is to the company, and to the industry. But as more young workers are hired into the industry, the issue has taken on an increased importance.

Younger workers differ from older ones by having fewer fatalities, but more total injuries and more serious injuries, according to safety and injury incident research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Human Resources Department Canada, and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Non-fatal injuries in the oil and gas industry are far lower than average for all private injuries, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics. That is a remarkable tribute to the emphasis that the energy industry places on safety and safety awareness. A large part of the training that all workers in the oil and gas industry receive is devoted to safety practices and to making employees more safety conscious. 

However, the other side of the coin is that fatalities within the industry at the end of 2013 were at the highest level seen since 1992, when the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics first began tracking the data, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While it is important to note that the rise was due to the increase in workers in the field and on public roadways, and not to a rise in the rate per worker hour, it is still a troubling reminder of how important safety awareness is, both on and off the job.

If there is a bright spot in the data, it is that many of the fatalities and injuries are preventable. For example, vehicle crashes are the single largest cause of fatalities to workers in the oil and gas industry, according to a May 2014 Associated Press story, making up four out of every ten fatalities in the industry. And in about half of the cases, the victims were not wearing seatbelts. So, something as simple as ensuring that all occupants buckle up when traveling in vehicles could significantly lower injury and fatality statistics.

Other driving-related factors, such as drivers working longer shifts and increased traffic congestion in the areas near fracking sites, also played a role in the rise in traffic accidents. Traffic deaths in West Virginia fell 8 percent in 2013 from the previous year, but rose 42 percent in the two most heavily drilled counties of the state amid increased traffic congestion, the Associated Press said. While the figures were different, a similar pattern was seen in North Dakota and in Texas. 

Energy companies are aware of the data.


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