The shortage of qualified rig workers, and the desire of workers to earn high wages, is pushing drilling companies to increase the number of overtime hours. The trend in this growing industry of increased demand with limited numbers of workers is likely to continue. Unfortunately, another trend in this industry is an increasing number of work-related fatalities – with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting 98 fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry in 2005. Historically, increases in the number of fatalities has followed the number of actively drilling rigs, even more so than the number of current employees. Working typical 12-hour shifts for 7 to 14 days in a row can lead to fatigue, resulting in mistakes in judgment and handling of equipment. Mistakes on a drill rig can be costly, both financially and in worker injuries. Fatigue is not unique to the drilling industry, and lessons learned from other areas can help identify and alleviate some of the potential hazards. Companies can schedule shifts and breaks to minimize fatigue, put in place policies and practices for identifying and managing fatigued employees, and help employees learn how to plan their off-time to minimize work-time tiredness. A summary of findings from research and practices in the oil and gas drilling industry as well as other industries will be presented with practical recommendations for safety management. The conclusions in this presentation have not been formally disseminated by CDC/NIOSH and should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy.

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