NIOSH Director: New Partnerships Needed to Advance Oil and Gas Research

Published December 5, 2018

​NIOSH Director John Howard, MD, urges drilling, servicing, and operating companies to partner with the agency to advance occupational safety and health research in the oil and gas extraction industry. In the most recent issue of NIOSH eNews, Howard highlighted some of the agency’s new projects, which are focused on characterizing exposure hazards to workers involved in drilling operations and evaluating controls to prevent exposures to hazards previously identified in well-servicing operations. These hazards include respirable crystalline silica, hydrocarbon gases and vapors, diesel particulate matter, and dermal exposures to drilling muds.

Another upcoming project involves the expansion of the NIOSH Fatalities in Oil and Gas Extraction database, which collects detailed information about worker fatalities in the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry. NIOSH is expanding the national database to include non-fatal injuries. According to Howard, this change is intended to “provide more detailed, industry-specific data that will increase what is currently known about non-fatal injuries in this work force.” Agency epidemiologists are also in the process of completing a first-of-its-kind national survey of oil and gas workers that NIOSH hopes will provide new information about the work force and the health and safety issues faced by these workers. NIOSH is on track to publish the results of the survey in 2019.

Industry and other stakeholders who would like more information or who are interested in collaborating with NIOSH to improve health and safety in oil and gas should email Oil and Gas Extraction Program Coordinator David Caruso.

Related: On Nov. 27, NIOSH published the final version of its National Occupational Research Agenda for oil and gas extraction (PDF). The research agenda sets four objectives for the industry: reduce motor vehicle injuries and fatalities, the leading cause of work-related death in oil and gas extraction; reduce non-vehicle-related worker injuries and fatalities; reduce exposures to hazards and their health effects in workers; and identify and promote proactive strategies to improve oil and gas worker safety and health.