The U.S. oil and gas extraction industry has an elevated occupational fatality rate when compared to other industries, and this rate is correlated to the level of activity in the industry. This paper presents an analysis of worker fatalities in the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry for the years 2003-2008 and suggests strategies to prevent fatalities among the groups of workers most at risk of being killed on the job.

Description of Processes

Fatality rates were calculated by year, company type, and company size. The frequency of fatal events onshore and offshore, by occupation, age group and contributing factors are also reported.


There were 648 fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry during 2003-2008; the majority (91%) occurred to onshore workers. Transportation-related events were the leading cause of death for all workers. Drilling contractors and companies that employed fewer than 20 workers had the highest fatality rates.


This study found that the fatality rate in the oil and gas extraction industry remained elevated through 2008. Many of the fatalities were associated with three risk factors: seat belt non-use, workers being employed by small companies, and workers having been employed less than one year by their current company. Concentrating attention on these three risk factors could significantly decrease the number and rate of occupational fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry. The recommendations made in this paper can be implemented by companies at low or no cost and can be incorporated into existing safety and health policies and procedures.

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