For oil and gas workers, it can be a deadly job

America's new energy boom has a dangerous side as the sector's fatal injuries reach a record high.

By Bruce Kennedy Aug 26, 2013 9:29AM

Oil derricks (© Comstock/Corbis)Are conditions becoming safer for the American worker? Overall, yes. But certainly not if you're in the oil and gas industry.

Preliminary figures released late last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed 4,383 fatal work injuries in the U.S. last year, down from 4,693 in 2011. The 2012 numbers represent the second-lowest preliminary total of work-related deaths since the BLS first began compiling that data in 1992.

However, fatal work injuries in the private mining sector rose in 2012, led by an increase in deaths among workers in the oil and gas extraction industry, which were higher by 23% last year to 138 -- a new annual record in that category.

Those numbers reflect the growing boom in oil and gas work in the U.S. and how the number of jobs created in that industry has greatly outpaced new employment elsewhere.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported jobs in the oil and natural gas industry increased by more than 162,000 positions between 2007 and last year, a rise of 40%. Compare that to job creation in the rest of the private sector, which rose by about 1%, or 1 million jobs, during that same time period.

But Julia Bell, spokeswoman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, told industry website Energy Wire that while the current oil and gas boom means more workers, it also means more workers being placed in harm's way. "When industries expand rapidly, there are, tragically, incidents that also occur," she said.

Peg Seminario, safety and health director of the AFL-CIO, is calling for a closer look at hazards and other issues in the oil and gas industry, including an investigation into whether some employers and contractors are putting workers in unnecessarily dangerous situations.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said while the lower workplace fatality data were encouraging, there's a very long way to go. "To me these aren't just numbers and data," he said in a press statement, "they are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, who will never come home again.

"We can and must do better," he added. "Job gains in oil and gas and construction have come with more fatalities, and that is unacceptable."

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Aug 26, 2013 9:42AM
Industry expansion means lots of greenhorns on the drill site.  In a dangerous job, there is no substitute for experience.
Aug 26, 2013 12:51PM
The main problem with today's safety is that it is a "kinder gentler" work environment. They try to make it so politically correct that you can't get on their a$$ and get their attention anymore. When I started in the oilfield in 1968 the old drillers could fire you in a heartbeat and they didn't hesitate to do so if you were not paying attention to the operation. They would call you a dumba$$ and treat you like a redheaded stepchild if you were screwing around. Now they have meetings and it is all ignored as soon as the meeting is over. Roughnecks are like mules, you have to treat them with kindness but you have to get their attention first! I can tell you from personal experience that we had a lower percentage of accidents then than we do now.
Aug 26, 2013 10:59AM
More work, more injuries. Not really a surprise. But with 40% more employment and only 23% more fatalities, that's actually an improvement.
Aug 26, 2013 2:41PM
All you nancy boys should park your flippin' cars.  So tired of hearing about the big bad oil companies from libtards while they drive their combustion engine machines down the road.  You want electric cars, go for it.  The electricity has to come from somewhere, genius.  Right now that means coal more often than not.  These posts are a perfect example of the overall dumbing down of America.  we have met the enemy, and he is us.  Good job, goofballs.
Aug 26, 2013 12:55PM
"it can be a deadly job"  Really?, No kidding, your serious right?. 
Aug 26, 2013 12:52PM
Oil and Gas workers face risks----------DUHHHHH
Aug 26, 2013 1:55PM
it is usually the worms that are hurt. They are the new guys doing the heavy lifting and moving drill pipe and doing the most dangerous a  person said, new guys are the ones most likely to be hurt or killed.
Aug 26, 2013 1:06PM
Aug 26, 2013 1:16PM
Horrid working conditions and looooong wordays and workweeks (80 hours+) create massive turnover in the industry. My brother works in the western North Dakota oil fields and is one of the most senior on his entire worksite and he has only been there just shy of 2 years. about 22 months.

Everyone who was hired before him has quit. My bro is ready to quit. He is looking for other jobs and will soon leave.

High turnover is the main reason for so many 'greenhorns'. NOT BECAUSE OF INDUSTRY EXPANSION. Its because of UNSAFE, HORRID working conditions.

A long prison sentence for well/mine OWNERS when their workers get killed would fix this problem.

Aug 26, 2013 1:45PM

I wonder what the increase in work related fatalities for Teacher's is?

They added 162,000 jobs to this industry. Would this be expected?

MSN should report the facts rather than their agenda....


Aug 26, 2013 1:46PM
Possibly the coal- mining industry of lore.
Aug 26, 2013 2:07PM
could have easily normalized the data to get rid of the employment level effect....go figure
Aug 29, 2013 7:57PM
that's is right ,, so many young new workers who don't have any experience whatsoever,, used to be before the computer age that young men worked on construction jobs at a early age or on trucks cars and were out side doling things and learning from the old timers their fathers,, doesn't happen any more,,, now with the new oil boom guys are finding out that it takes hard work and it feels good to get into a sweat and earn a living,, so naturally there are going to be a lot more accidents but if it keeps up in time there will be a huge force that can cope better,,,,,
Aug 26, 2013 2:51PM
It is indeed one of the most dangerous fields of employment. Still have an injury today from 40 years back when I worked in the oil fields. Not a job for the faint of heart.
Aug 29, 2013 4:14PM

A lot people having going to the oil fields in NW North Dakota, it's good money but you will have horrible working conditions, expensive housing or no housing, crime ridden man camps, and don't forget about the brutal winters up there.

Aug 26, 2013 10:25PM
What good is a job that kills you ... and the environment of the planet you live on.
Aug 26, 2013 2:10PM
Let's not forget about the people that work in the chemical industries (primarily automotive and industrial coatings), it is a nasty job...
Aug 26, 2013 2:25PM
Back in the day, when I was in my youth, laboring in a local steel mill, being a laborer in a steel mill was as dangerous as sky diving or auto racing, as far as the insurance companies were concerned, and they would give you life insurance, but rate you heavily, considering it a highly dangerous occupation. That highly dangerous occupation was all but eliminated by sending that industry out of the country, for the most part. Maybe it's time we eliminate this highly dangerous occupation by becoming less dependent on oil .... but that's just not going to happen as long as the oil companies are posting record profits.
Aug 26, 2013 1:33PM
Why aren't well owners put in prison when inexperienced workers die due to improper training?
Aug 26, 2013 1:08PM
Who cares about safety as long as someone is making money right? So what if a few peons die or get sick? That's the price of business!
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