The oil and gas extraction industry employs 400,000 workers. During 2003-2007, the fatality rate among oil and gas extraction workers was nearly eight times that for all U.S. workers (30.0 vs. 4.0 per 100,000 workers). Occupational fatality rates among these workers are high, and vary with the level of drilling activity. In addition, injury risk may be associated with other factors, such as company type and size. The purpose of this study was to characterize the differences in risk of fatal injury according to company type and size during 2003–2007.


Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries were utilized for this study. Company size was defined as small (fewer than 20 workers); medium (20–99 workers), and large (100 or more). For company type, companies were characterized as operators, drilling contractors and service companies. Relative risks were calculated to compare occupational fatality rates among different groups of companies.


Workers employed by small companies were three and five times as likely to suffer a fatal injury compared with workers from medium and large companies, respectively. There were also substantial differences between company types, independent of company size. Workers employed by drilling contractors were most at risk of fatal injury. The fatality rate in drilling companies was three times that for operators, and 1.5 times the rate among service companies. The size effect held true within each company type; the company type effect held true among small companies.


The workers at highest risk were those employed by small companies, particularly small drilling contractors. These findings may help safety professionals develop workplace solutions and conduct outreach and training for the industry's most at-risk workers.

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