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High risk of fatal, job-related traffic accidents for oil workers

A study recently published in the Journal "Accident Analysis & Prevention" revealed that certain oil and gas extraction workers are at a higher risk of fatal, work-related traffic accidents than those in other industries. Employees of operators, service companies and drilling contractors were at the highest risk within the oil and gas industry, and only transportation and warehouse workers were at greater risk.

The study analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on fatal motor vehicle accidents among workers between 2003 and 2009, a period before the shale drilling boom. The researchers found that 202 oil and gas extraction workers were killed in work-related car and truck accidents during that period. Those fatal traffic accidents made up 28 percent of all workplace deaths in the industry -- making it the leading cause of work-related deaths for oil and gas workers.

Compared to workers in other industries, the researchers found, oil and gas workers are 8.5 times more likely to be killed in on-the-job car or truck accidents. And, oil and gas workers employed by companies with fewer than 20 employees -- and especially those employed by small well-service companies -- were at an especially high risk.

Most of the fatal accidents involved pickup trucks, rural roads and lack of seat belts

"[T]his industry has a lot of young workers, and risk-taking may be more common among this age group," said the study's lead author, who is also a program coordinator with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The fact is that many oil and gas jobs require both long hours and long drives on rural roads, which may indicate that driver fatigue is a problem. Around 56 percent of the fatalities involved single-vehicle accidents.

More than half of the accidents involved pickup trucks as opposed to tractor-trailers, which is important because pickup truck drivers aren't required to have commercial driver's licenses.

Unfortunately, drivers' failure to wear seat belts appears to be a major contributing factor to these job-related fatal accidents -- and other studies have found that not wearing seatbelts is practically cultural in both the oil and gas industry and in rural areas generally. In half of the deaths it was clear that the driver wasn't wearing a seat belt, often because the driver had been ejected from the vehicle.

For drivers of pickups, wearing both lap and shoulder belts has been shown to reduce the risk of fatalities by 60 percent.

Source: fuelfix.com, "Oilfield workers at higher risk of fatal motor vehicle accidents," Jeannie Kever, Jan. 18, 2013

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