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The most dangerous aspects of working in oil and gas extraction

Studies, statistics and reports have made it very clear: working in the oil and gas extraction industry can be incredibly dangerous. Workers often put themselves at great risk simply by doing the routine parts of the job.

Texas, with its hundreds of rigs, often sees the highest number of oil and gas extraction worker deaths every year. But which activities tend to be the deadliest? Federal figures offer some insight.

Driving is a common factor

The most recent report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) looked at 101 work-related deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry in 2014. Just under half of those fatalities occurred in Texas.

The most common type of fatality was a motor vehicle accident, which accounted for 28 deaths. It's a known problem, with one study finding oil and gas extraction workers face a far higher rate of motor vehicle-related fatalities than other industry groups. Workers at medium and small establishments were found to be at increased risk.

Contact injuries, according to NIOSH data, were the second most common type of fatality. That includes being caught or crushed, an object striking the worker, or a falling object hitting them. Explosions (due to combustion or pressure) as well as falls and electrocutions were also prevalent.

The most dangerous operations

The NIOSH report also looked at fatalities by operation, finding drilling operations resulted in the highest number of fatalities with 26. Another 22 workers died as a result of injuries during completions, which includes well completion, hydraulic fracturing and flowback. During the production stage, NIOSH data recorded 13 deaths.

In addition, the report also classified activities it considered "high frequency" for fatalities. That list includes:

  • Motor vehicle travel
  • Material handling (with a crane, forklift or winch truck)
  • Rig or equipment repair or maintenance
  • Commuting: non-traditional
  • Making up or breaking out tubulars
  • Production rig activities
  • Rigging up or down

While oil and natural gas workers know their jobs are dangerous, that doesn't mean they or their loved ones don't deserve compensation in the result of a serious accident. Workers' compensation will often cover some medical costs and lost wages, it won't necessarily make up for pain, suffering and other long-term financial needs.

In those cases, it may be possible to pursue a personal injury claim against a third-party contractor that was at fault, or equipment manufacturers if their product failed. While these types of cases can be complex, often requiring an attorney to guide the process, it may be possible to receive additional compensation for the significant damages the accident caused.

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