Oil and Gas Extraction

Participating core and specialty programs: Center for Motor Vehicle Safety, Center for Direct Reading and Sensor Technologies, Safe●Skilled●Ready Workforce, Small Business Assistance, Surveillance, and Translation Research.

Professional associations, insurers, employers, workers, and other government agencies use NIOSH information to prevent motor vehicle crashes among oil and gas extraction workers.

NOTE: Goals in bold in the table below are priorities for extramural research.

  Health Outcome Research Focus Worker Population* Research Type
A Fatal and non-fatal injuries Refine understanding of MV risk factors (e.g., commuting, risk tolerance, road type and rural worksites, driver distraction, work organization) Well servicing contractors, drilling contractors, small businesses Basic/etiologic
B Fatal and non-fatal injuries Exploring new data sources and data linkage All oil and gas extraction workers Surveillance research
C Fatal and non-fatal injuries Interventions (e.g., technologies like IVMS, safety management) Well servicing contractors, small businesses Intervention
D Fatal and non-fatal injuries Seatbelts, fatigue prevention Well servicing contractors, small businesses Translation

* See definitions of worker populations

Activity Goal 6.10.1 (Basic/Etiologic Research): Conduct basic/etiologic research to better understand motor vehicle crash risk factors for oil and gas extraction workers.

Activity Goal 6.10.2 (Intervention Research): Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of interventions to prevent motor vehicle crashes and resulting injuries among oil and gas extraction workers.

Activity Goal 6.10.3 (Translation Research): Conduct translation research to understand barriers and aids to implementing effective interventions to prevent motor vehicle crashes and resulting injuries among oil and gas extraction workers.

Activity Goal 6.10.4 (Surveillance Research): Conduct surveillance research to explore new sources for motor vehicle crash data for oil and gas extraction workers.


The oil and gas extraction industry employs approximately 541,000 workers (2015) and suffers from a high rate of occupational fatalities from all causes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1,422 workers were killed on the job during 2003−2015, resulting in a fatality rate of 24.1 per 100,000 workers. Transportation incidents were the leading cause of death to oil and gas extraction workers, resulting in nearly 600 deaths (42%) over the same time period. The majority (80%) of these incidents were motor vehicle crashes [BLS 2017]. Half of the oil and gas extraction workers who died in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing a seat belt and were occupants of light-duty vehicles (primarily pickup trucks). Risk is highest among workers of well-servicing companies and establishments with fewer than 20 employees [Retzer et al. 2013]. Nearly every worker in the oil and gas extraction sector drives as part of their job. Well sites are often located in remote locations, requiring workers to drive on rural roads which may lack safety features such as lighting, guard rails, and adequate road grading. Workers also often travel long distances from their homes to work sites and between work sites, putting them at increased risk of fatigue and at increased risk of crash involvement and injury [CDC 2015]. Long hours and shift work are typical; 12-hour shifts for two or more consecutive weeks are common.


Available data, previous NIOSH research, and information collected from stakeholders have all identified the need for focused research and prevention activities to prevent motor vehicle crashes in this high-risk industry. Management of motor vehicle safety risks in this industry depends largely on the development, implementation, and enforcement of strong employer policies that cover light-duty vehicles (pickup trucks) because the coverage of these vehicles by state or federal safety requirements specific to driving for work is very limited. Research is needed to build an evidence base for effective road safety interventions. Interventions should address known risk factors for motor vehicle crashes, such as driver fatigue and distraction, seat belt non-compliance, shift work, long hours of driving for work, and long commutes. Interventions may take the form of administrative or management controls such as journey management programs, fatigue management programs, and driver training; or technology-based interventions such as in-vehicle monitoring systems (IVMS) and fatigue detection systems. In this industry, intervention and translational research are the most critical for reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities. There is also a need for basic/etiologic research to better understand risk factors for crashes and surveillance research to identify novel methods for identifying and linking crash data for this worker population.

BLS [2017]. Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, TABLE A-2, Fatal occupational injuries resulting from transportation incidents and homicides, all United States (2003-2015). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

CDC [2015]. Occupational fatalities during the oil and gas boom — United States, 2003–2013. MMWR 64(20):551–554.

Retzer KD, Hill R, Pratt SG [2013]. Motor vehicle fatalities among oil and gas extraction workers. Accid Anal Prev 51:168–174.

Page last reviewed: April 24, 2018