Oil and natural gas fields are proliferating throughout the country and understandably the number of personal injuries associated with these operations is also increasing. What may surprise many is that the biggest threat to oil workers is not jobsite slip-and-falls or machinery injuries, but truck accidents.
More than 300 oil and gas workers have been killed in truck accidents during the last decade. Truck accidents are the most common cause of death for the entire industry. The New York Times reports that the largest cause of these truck accidents is the oil and gas industry's exemption from federal laws limiting the number of hours that truck drivers can work.
Many of the truck accidents involving oil and gas workers are linked to fatigued driving. Some of the drivers involved in crashes were driving after working 20 hour shifts.
"Just because you are on an oil field site does not make you any less vulnerable to the effects of fatigue," one oil service driver recently wrote in a letter to federal highway safety experts.
"The growth of this industry is a big concern because it's adding so many more trucks on the roads and its drivers don't have to follow the same rules as others," a lawyer for a highway safety group said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a study of trucking fatalities in the oil and gas industry and found that the growing use of inexperienced workers in the industry and lengthy shifts were the primary drivers of the increased fatality rate. "Unless changes are made to increase worker safety, the high fatality rates described in this report are likely to continue," the CDC concluded.
Source: New York Times, Deadliest Danger Isn't at the Rig but on the Road, Ian Urbina, May 14, 2012