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The leading cause of oil and gas worker deaths? Motor vehicles

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Washington — Vehicle-related incidents contributed to more than a quarter of worker deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry over a recent six-year period, a recently published report shows.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 2014-2019 data from the Fatalities in Oil and Gas Extraction database, created by NIOSH in 2013 in an effort to mitigate the industry’s “unique safety and health hazards and historically elevated fatality rates.”

In all, 470 oil and gas extraction workers died, with contractors comprising about three-quarters of the total. The most frequent cause was vehicle-related incidents (26.8%), followed by contact injuries (21.7%) and explosions (14.5%). Around 20% of the fatalities involved lone workers.

In May, NIOSH asked workers and employers in the oil and gas industry to volunteer for interviews and focus groups to talk about motor vehicle safety. The agency noted that oil and gas extraction workers “travel frequently between well sites and travel on rural roads, which often lack firm shoulders and rumble strips. They also drive long distances from their homes, lodging sites or equipment yards, and may not use seat belts. Additionally, OGE workers often work long and irregular hours, which can result in fatigue.”

In its new report, CDC recommends continued surveillance of oil and gas extraction worker deaths to help identify new safety and health hazards, as well as guide research and prevention activities.

“The findings in this report also can be used by other industries with high fatality rates to support the development of worker fatality surveillance systems,” the agency says.

The report was published online in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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