Oil and Gas Extraction

Participating core and specialty programs: Center for Motor Vehicle Safety, Surveillance

Employers, workers, professional organizations, and accrediting bodies use NIOSH information to prevent injuries associated with work organization factors that contribute to fatigue, prescription drugs (including opioids), illicit drugs, and substance use/misuse in the oil and gas extraction sector

Health Outcome Issue Worker population Research needed
A Fatal and non-fatal injuries Fatigue from long shifts over consecutive days Oil and gas operators, drilling contractors, and well servicing companies Intervention Translation
B Fatal and non-fatal injuries Work organization Vulnerable workers, non-standard work arrangements Basic/etiologic
C Fatal and non-fatal injuries Prescription drug (incl. opioids), illicit drug, and substance use/misuse Oil and gas operators, drilling contractors, and well servicing companies Surveillance Intervention

Activity Goal 7.13.1 (Basic/Etiologic): Conduct basic/etiologic research to examine the impact of work organization factors on the safety and health of oil and gas extraction workers.

Activity Goal 7.13.2 (Intervention Research): Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of interventions to reduce injuries related to fatigue and prescription drug (incl. opioids), illicit drug, and substance use/misuse among oil and gas extraction workers.

Activity Goal 7.13.3 (Surveillance Research): Conduct surveillance research on risk factors for prescription drug (incl. opioids), illicit drug, and substance use/misuse among oil and gas extraction workers and its effects on worker well-being.

Activity Goal 7.13.4 (Translation Research): Conduct translation research to understand barriers and aids to disseminating and implementing effective interventions to prevent injuries related to fatigue and prescription drug (incl. opioids), illicit drug, and substance use/misuse among oil and gas extraction workers.


The overall fatality rate from workers in the oil and gas extraction (OGE) workers is over six times that of U.S. private sector workers [NIOSH 2019]. Insufficient sleep and long working hours are linked to fatigue and increased risk of injury at work [Uehli et al. 2014]. Many OGE workers work long hours, and in some cases, work for 14 consecutive days or more at a time. While the average U.S. worker works 34.3 hours per week, OGE company employees work on average 43.9 hours per week and employees of OGE support activities work on average 48.8 hours per week [BLS 2019]. Additionally, insufficient sleep (<7 hours per night) has been reported by 45% of workers in extraction occupations, which include OGE workers [Shockey & Wheaton 2017]. Economy-driven cycles of boom and bust in OGE lead to unpredictable work in the downturn and extended working hours and time pressures during upturns.

OGE workers face numerous hazards, including working with heavy equipment, working at heights, exposure to hazardous and flammable gases and vapors, and traveling long distances to well sites on rural roads. Falling asleep at the wheel was a common contributing factor mentioned in an analysis of OGE transportation fatality narratives [Retzer et al. 2013].

Prescription opioids may be both a personal risk factor for work-related injury and a consequence of workplace exposures [Kowalski-McGraw et al. 2017]. The rate of workplace overdose fatalities for the mining, quarrying and OGE sector during 2011-2016 was 2.8 per 1,000,000 FTE, the third highest rate of all industry sectors [Tiesman et al., 2019]. Another recent analysis examining adult overdose deaths in 21 states by occupation (not just overdose deaths in the workplace) found a greater than expected proportion of deaths from natural and semisynthetic opioids within the extraction occupation group (including OGE workers), second only to construction [Morano et al., 2018]. OSHA data indicate that during 2015, support activities for mining (which consists of oil and gas well servicing and drilling operations) had the third highest number of severe injury reports [OSHA 2016]. It is likely that opioid prescriptions were a part of the pain management plan for at least some of these workers. A recent analysis of workers’ compensation claims from 27 states reported that workers employed in mining, including oil and gas, were more likely that workers in other industries to receive opioids for pain [Thumula and Liu 2018].


There is a need to develop and evaluate work organization interventions in the OGE industry to minimize fatigue and fatigue-related injuries. Of particular importance are evaluations of the effectiveness of fatigue risk management systems (FRMS) in OGE and barriers to their adoption.

Basic/etiologic research on the role that work organization plays in the occurrence of job stress, substance misuse, and work-related injuries among OGE workers is needed. Factors that are common in the industry that may be examined include remote and temporary work sites, extended work rotations away from home, contracted and subcontracted work tasks, and multi-employer worksites.

Surveillance research is needed to examine OGE work-related factors and exposures that may contribute to opioid misuse, and to identify potential data sources for tracking the effects of opioid misuse on worker health outcomes. Research to evaluate the effectiveness of employer-based interventions to reduce opioid misuse in the OGE workforce is also a priority.

BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) [2019]. Current Employment Statistics, Average weekly hours, 2017. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Kowalski-McGraw M, Green-McKenzie J, Pandalai SP, Schulte PA [2017]. Characterizing the interrelationships of prescription opioid and benzodiazepine drugs with worker health and workplace hazards.  J Occup Environ Med 59(11):1114-1126.

Morano L, Steege A, Luckhaupt S [2018].  Occupational patterns in unintentional and undetermined drug-involved and opioid-involved overdose deaths — United States, 2007 – 2012. MMWR 67(33):925-930. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6733a3.htm

NIOSH [2019]. Program Portfolio, Oil and Gas Extraction Program, Burden, Need, and Impact. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/programs/oilgas/burden.html

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) [2016]. Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, https://www.osha.gov/injuryreport/2015.pdfpdf iconexternal icon

Retzer KD, Hill RD, Pratt SG [2013]. Motor vehicle fatalities in the oil & gas extraction industry. Accid Anal Prev 51:168–174.

Shockey TM, Wheaton AG [2017]. Short Sleep Duration by Occupation Group — 29 States, 2013–2014. MMWR 66:207–213.

Thumula V, Liu T [2018]. Correlates of opioid dispensing.  Report No. WC-18-48.  Cambridge, MA: Workers Compensation Research Institute.

Tiesman HM, Konda S, Cimineri L, Castillo DN [2019]. Drug overdose deaths at work, 2011-2016.  Inj Prev, online ahead of print, http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/injuryprev-2018-043104external icon

Uehli K, Mehta AJ, Miedinger D, Hug K, Schindler C, Holsboer-Trachsler E, Leuppi JD, Künzli N [2014]. Sleep problems and work injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 18(1):61-73.

Note: Goal 7.13 was added in October 2019.

Page last reviewed: October 18, 2019