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Oil fields are a hazard to workers in America

There is no secret about the dangers of oil fields. These workplaces are unpredictable and can have hazards that lead to fatal workplace injuries.

The oil industry is a high-hazard industry. What this means is that people who work in it are at a higher likelihood of injury or death as a result of accidents on the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the rate of fatal injuries at work in the United States was around three out of 100,000 full-time workers in 2014. In the oil and gas industry, the rates were as much as five times higher than that. In 2014, 142 people in the gas and oil sector died from injuries they suffered at work.

Has the oil industry gotten safer?

It's hard to say if it's gotten better or worse. In a recent National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report, there were 602 incidents that resulted in injuries between Jan. 2015 and Feb. 2017. Some incidents occur because of drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel and wreck their vehicles. Others occur because of heavy equipment being assembled or disassembled incorrectly.

To address the potential for drivers to fall asleep, many companies now have monitors in the vehicles. These allow employers to track their drivers and make sure they're traveling safely without distractions, aggression or reckless behaviors.

It's believed that another reason there are so many injuries and deaths in this field is because of the culture. Many oil and gas workers have few skills and may stay quiet to keep their large paychecks. As of 2015, even low-skilled workers could make upwards of $100,000. That's money a worker would hate to lose by making an enemy of his or her employer.

Why is it vital to record data about injuries?

It's difficult to track every injury in this industry because of the classifications of workers. Driver injuries might be tracked by codes other than those used for the oil and gas industry, slightly reducing the totals for the number of injuries or deaths reported.

Between Jan. 2015 and Feb. 2017, there were 481 people hospitalized and 166 total amputations performed. With better data collection, it's going to be easier to find out exactly what causes the majority of accidents in the oil and gas industry and how to better address the issues that cause them. With additional data and information, it's easier to keep workers safe and to prevent further injuries or deaths in the oil and gas industry.

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