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Activities: NIOSH Research Projects

  	NIOSH Oil & Gas Extraction Safety and Health Program, Research Projects and Publications Timeline 

Page-size, printable version of the Research Projects and Publications Timeline [PDF - 157 KB] .

Motor Vehicle Fatalities: Best Practices in the Oil and Gas Extraction Industry

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatality in the oil and gas extraction industry. They make up 29% of all fatalities in this industry. The majority of fatalities are workers from well servicing companies. These workers drive long distances on rural highways to travel to well sites. Often these roads lack firm shoulders and other safety features. The goals of this project are to:

  1. Analyze motor vehicle fatalities in the industry to better understand circumstances, trends, and identify workers that are most at risk.
  2. Conduct a literature review of industry motor vehicle safety programs.
  3. Identify best practices of motor vehicle safety programs in the industry.
  4. Develop a Motor Vehicle Oil and Gas Workgroup composed of industry, NIOSH and other stakeholder representatives who are dedicated to reducing motor vehicle injury in the industry.
  5. In partnership with the workgroup, create and disseminate products that support the implementation of best practices in motor vehicle safety for the oil and gas industry.

Preventing Fire and Explosions in the Oil and Gas Extraction Industry

This project seeks to reduce fatalities resulting from fires and explosions, the third most common fatal event in the oil and gas extraction industry – one that can lead to multiple fatalities, catastrophic damage, and potentially injure other workers and the general public. One out of seven occupational fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry is due to a fire or explosion. This project will investigate the causes of fires and explosions in the land-based oil and gas extraction industry and create materials for industry that promote the adoption of effective interventions. The specific aims of this project are:

  1. Data collection: collect data on recent fire and explosion events in the oil and gas extraction industry;
  2. Data analysis: conduct a thorough analysis of all identified oil and gas extraction fire and explosion events;
  3. Synthesis: work with a panel of experts to identify patterns and potential solutions; and
  4. Translation, outreach, and dissemination: create and distribute a summary of the error analysis and identified countermeasures and create targeted outreach materials.

NIOSH Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposure Risks to Gas and Oil Workers

A diverse variety and large quantity of chemicals and mineral products are used every day by oil and gas extraction workers. While there has been ongoing and significant research on safety aspects (fatalities, causes of injuries, etc.) of the profession, the same cannot be stated for the occupational health (workplace health issues compared to workplace safety) aspects of the profession. There is little, existing information regarding occupational health risks for chemical and mineral exposures to workers in the extraction and production industry.

As part of the NIOSH Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposure Risks to Oil and Gas Workers, NIOSH will partner with industry to better understand occupational exposures and possible health risks to workers by investigating the variety and magnitude of chemical exposure risks and routes of exposures that may be hazardous to workers. To determine the degree or absence of health risks, NIOSH researchers will conduct field-based exposure assessment studies to identify, characterize, and (if needed) control workplace chemical exposures. The goals of this NIOSH field effort are threefold:

  1. Understand workplace operations and identify processes, materials and activities where chemical exposures could occur;
  2. Characterize potential exposures to vapors, gases, dusts and particulates, elements (metals), and fumes; and
  3. Depending on research outcomes (and if needed), develop recommended safe work practices and/or exposure controls such as ventilation engineering, product substitution, modifications to work practices, and/or appropriate use of personal protective equipment.

Injury Research in the Offshore Oil and Gas Extraction Industry

During 2003-2008, 648 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job (onshore and offshore, combined), resulting in an annual fatality rate of 29.1 deaths per 100,000 workers, over seven times the rate for all US workers. Nearly 11 percent of the industry’s fatalities occur offshore; during 2003-2008, 69 fatalities occurred among offshore oil and gas extraction workers. The purpose of this project is to use the public health approach to reduce the injury hazards present in the U.S. offshore oil and gas extraction industry. This approach includes investigating the most frequent fatal events in the offshore oil and gas extraction industry, analyzing available surveillance data to identify research and prevention priorities, and creating products for workers and management to minimize associated risks. NIOSH will partner with oil and gas extraction companies, industry safety experts, and workers to identify those hazards and their risk factors, and then work with industry to create compelling communication products.

The Use of Fall Protection Equipment by Oil and Gas Extraction Workers

Falls are one of the most common fatal events in the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry. The frequent need to work at elevations and the misuse or non-use of fall protection systems makes fall injuries a significant hazard. The workers employed by drilling contractors and well servicing companies (two-thirds of the workforce) spend much of their time working at elevations and are therefore the target population for this project. As part of this project focus group discussions and interviews will be conducted with oil and gas extraction workers to identify the factors that influence their use of fall protection systems. Detailed information will be collected about their perceptions of fall hazards, barriers to the correct use of fall protection systems, external influences on their use, and strategies for increasing their use. This project will identify modifiable factors and corresponding interventions that will increase the use of fall protection systems in the oil and gas extraction industry. Recommendations will be developed for increasing the correct use of fall protection systems, tailored to oil and gas drilling companies and well servicing companies. NIOSH will also develop outreach products targeting the factors identified in our analysis of the focus group and interview data. These outreach products will be presented to workers and safety supervisors to ensure that they are appropriate and effective, and they will be disseminated through the information channels utilized by the target audience.

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