February 29, 2024

Report Highlights Severe Injuries among Contractors in Oil and Gas

Contract employers reported to OSHA the highest number of severe injuries in the oil and gas extraction industry during January 2015–July 2022, according to a report published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) earlier this month. The authors examined data from 32 states and territories under federal OSHA authority to determine trends in severe injuries in oil and gas extraction. Based on their findings, the authors urge oil and gas extraction operators to include contract workers in site safety management plans and improve training on job and equipment hazards. The authors note that this report could also be used to help guide the implementation of strategies to improve safety among workers in the oil and gas industry.

Contract workers in the well drilling and service subindustries—those engaged in drilling oil and gas wells or performing support activities for oil and gas operations—experienced disproportionately more injuries than those in the extraction or operation subsector, which primarily comprises companies that operate or develop oil and gas field properties. The oil and gas extraction industry reported a total of 2,101 severe work-related injuries during January 2015–July 2022. More than 93 percent of those injuries occurred among contractors—70.1 percent among contractors supporting oil and gas operations and 23.4 percent among contractors working in oil and gas well drilling. According to the report, the greater number of severe injuries among contract workers performing support activities “might be attributed to the temporary nature of most work in this subindustry, which is largely without a social safety net, and consists of high-hazard jobs for which workers do not receive consistent training.” Injuries among employees of oil and gas operators comprised just 6.5 percent of the total number of injuries.

The analysis also showed that injuries involving an upper extremity were the most reported, comprising 42.6 percent of all severe injury reports. Injuries involving a lower extremity followed; these were mentioned in 17.9 percent of reports. The leading types of injuries were open wounds and traumatic injuries to the bones, nerves, or spinal cord. More than 60 percent of these incidents were caused by contact with objects and equipment, followed by slips, trips, and falls, which led to 17.6 percent of incidents. Fires or explosions and exposures to harmful substances or environments were the third and fourth most common causes of severe work-related injuries among oil and gas extraction workers.

“These findings … underscore the necessity for [oil and gas extraction] operators to work with contracting companies to review their health and safety programs, interventions, and company safety procedures and address specific [work site] hazards to prevent the occurrence of severe injuries leading to hospitalizations and amputations specifically affecting upper and lower body extremities,” the report concludes.

For more information, see the full report in CDC’s MMWR.