New Data Pinpoints Dangerous Activities In Oil And Gas

Jul 1, 2015

Credit Stephanie Joyce

New data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, sheds light on the most dangerous areas of oil and gas.

NIOSH started collecting detailed data on oil and gas worker fatalities in 2014. The agency will be issuing a report based on what the data shows later this summer, but Kyla Retzer, a NIOSH epidemiologist, previewed some of it at a recent safety conference in Cheyenne.

Among the findings: oil and gas workers are most likely to get killed on a drilling site while putting up or taking down rigs. The data shows nine workers were killed during rigging in the first half of 2014, more than any other part of the drilling process.

“We’d been told that [rigging is dangerous] by industry before," Retzer said. "But this is the first time we’ve actually reviewed fatalities in this way.”

The data also shows six oil and gas workers died in 2014 from explosions and fires involving produced water tanks. Produced water is the water that comes up along with the oil--it often contains residual hydrocarbons, which are flammable. Most of the workers who died were welding or doing other “hot work” on the tanks.

“We just want to get the word out that these produced water tanks, these are not harmless if they haven’t been purged properly of those vapors and gases,” Retzer said.

NIOSH is planning to release a safety alert about the hazard in the near future.