As more and more workers make the switch to oil and gas work, concerns continue to arise about the lifestyle – and dangers – of working in the industry. The fears are not unfounded; between 2008 and 2017, 1,566 workers died from injuries sustained at work in the field, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. During a similar period, from 2008 through 2018, OSHA cited extraction companies for 10,873 violations. These facts are not unrelated, and, as Frank Parker, a safety consultant in Magnolia, TX, says, “We need those people to do that kind of work. We’ve just got to find a way not to kill them.”
Getting Hurt on the Job
Oil extraction is dangerous work. Oilfield workers have the right to a safe workplace, but even when every rule is followed, they are put in harm’s way every day.
Some ways that oilfield workers may get hurt on the job include:
- Toxic gas exposure
- Falling from a height
- Offshore helicopter crashes
- Head and brain injury
Oilfield workers are more likely than those in other professions to get hurt off the clock, too. Between the long-term health effects and the long hours, one study found that workers in the oil industry are 8.5 times more likely to die in car accidents. Between 2008 and 2018, more than 300 oil and gas workers were killed in crashes, making it the largest cause of death in the industry in that time.
Dying on the Job
Many workers have differing opinions on the risks of dying on the job, but whether they choose to worry about it actively or not, statistics show that the death rate is high. The yearly casualty rate of oil rig workers in the U.S. between 2003 and 2013 was 25 deaths per 100,000 employees, and the most common cause of death was falling. In fact, falling from a height accounted for 15% of all fatal events in the field between 2005 and 2014.
Offshore oil workers are in one of the many fields that require them to be away from home for long stretches of time. Even when they aren’t aboard an oil rig, adjusting back to home life can strain relationships and test marriages. It’s no wonder that the divorce rate among offshore workers and their spouses is high.
Missing Out on Kids’ Childhoods
This is a very real concern for those with families. With long hours in the field and concerns about safety, many workers might not be able to be there for the “firsts” that no parent wants to miss – from important holidays to sports games and school events.
Long-Term Physical Health Effects
Working with chemicals all day will undoubtedly impact a worker’s health. The dangerous nature of the work aside, working long shifts or strange hours can affect a person’s sleep and eating habits, and in turn their mental health. These can have long-term effects that show up in less obvious ways than a physical injury.
While the salaries of oilfield workers might look appealing alongside the promise of generous time off, is it worth it? Between the dangers of the work and the minimal training required, one starts to wonder. The lifestyle tradeoff might not be as sweet of a deal as it appears, especially for those newer to the industry, who have lower pay but similar exposure to risks when compared to seasoned colleagues or upper management.
Although they work in a dangerous profession, many oilfield workers neglect to create a living will or an estate plan should anything happen. Failing to plan for a potential tragedy puts the future of loved ones at risk and can make life after a traumatic injury even more difficult.
Companies Won’t Protect Workers
When companies don’t put safety first, workers get hurt. Working in the oil industry is dangerous, and the safe operation of the tools and equipment in oilfields is an incredibly important part of getting the work done right – and keeping workers alive. However, many companies don’t uphold their obligation to protect their workers and instead put profits before people.
Fighting for Oilfield Workers' Rights
Just because the oil industry is dangerous doesn’t mean it has to be. The oilfield accident lawyers at Arnold & Itkin are committed to holding employers accountable for their workers’ safety. We’ll always be there to help workers get the help they deserve. No matter what.