Vehicles Crashes Are a Leading Cause of Death for Oil and Gas Industry Workers

Fires, explosions, and falls are usually the first things that come to mind for most people when thinking of fatal accidents involving oil field workers. However, a 2013 study regarding the leading causes of death in the oil and gas extraction industry is surprising to many.

Conducted by safety analysts at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, the study revealed that the deadliest risk facing oil field workers is car and truck accidents—not fires, falls, and other accidents involving oil drilling platforms and specialized equipment.

oil_field_vehicleThe researchers who authored the shocking study analyzed the Bureau of Labor Statistics' fatality reports from 2003 through 2008 to produce its findings. The study, while surprising, could prompt hopeful action for reducing the oil and gas extraction industry's dismal fatality rate—which, at one point during the oil and gas boom between 2003 and 2010, was seven times higher than the fatality rate in other industries.

The fact that most oil field worker deaths are attributed to motor vehicle accidents, rather than factors unique to the oil and gas extraction industry, suggests that federal regulatory agencies and other safety organizations could potentially reduce these fatalities using many of the same tactics they use to reduce vehicle deaths in other industries or among the public at large.

If you were injured or lost a loved one in an oil field-related vehicle accident, you may be eligible for compensation. Here's what you should know before taking legal action.

Oil Field Vehicle Crash Statistics

  • Of the 648 oil field workers who died in on-the-job accidents from 2003 to 2008, more than 300 were killed in transportation accidents.
  • Between 1992 and 2000, there were 11,952 work-related road crash fatalities in the United States.
  • At 28 percent, the oil and gas extraction industry has the second highest motor vehicle death rate of any employment group, surpassed only by the transportation and warehousing industry.
  • Oil field workers are 8.5 times more likely to die in car and truck accidents than workers in other industries.
  • Workers employed by small companies that employ fewer than 20 people are statistically most at risk.
  • More than one-third of oil field workers who died in motor vehicle accidents between 2003 and 2009 worked in Texas.
  • Oil workers employed by operators, drilling contractors and well-service companies are at the highest risk for dying in a work-related car or truck accident.
  • Many of the oil field workers who died in motor vehicle accidents were transporting water used in fracking operations.
  • Approximately 56 percent of fatal crashes involved a single vehicle.
  • At 51.5 percent, victims in pickup trucks accounted for the largest percentage of deaths, compared to 26.7 percent for tractor trailers and other large trucks.
  • Single vehicles that overturned or jackknifed account for 38.6 percent of deaths; head-on collisions account for 20.8 percent; single vehicles that collide with an object on the side of the road account for 17.3 percent of deaths; collisions in intersections account for 8.9 percent; and collisions while moving in the same direction account for 7.9 percent of deaths.

Contributing Factors: What Makes Oil Field Transportation Jobs So Deadly?

There's not one explanation for why so many oil field workers have died in transportation accidents. However, some of the most comment causes cited in accident summaries include driver error, speeding, losing control after an over-correction, losing control on a curve, inclement weather and falling asleep at the wheel.

Other contributing factors may include:

  • Lax regulations for drivers. Due to industry lobbying efforts, oil field workers are not subject to the same safety regulations—such as shift limits and mandatory rest periods— as other commercial drivers.
  • Demanding schedules. As demand and production quotas increase, drivers spend more time on the road.
  • Lack of seat belt use. Wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of fatality in car and light truck accidents by 60 percent, but only 11.9 percent of oil field workers who died in vehicle accidents were wearing seat belts. Additionally, previous studies determined that not wearing a seat belt is part of the oil field culture.

Were You Injured in an Oil Field Vehicle Accident?

If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one in an oil field vehicle accident, McGartland Law's experienced attorneys can help you explore your legal options. Contact McGartland Law today to schedule a free initial case consultation.