A worker has died after an explosion at a natural gas storage tank in western Wyoming, bringing the number of oil and gas fatalities in Wyoming this year to at least two. Inside Energy recently explored what it takes to make dangerous industries safer in a series of stories called Dark Side of the Boom.
The dangers of the Bering Sea crab fishery have been made famous by the reality TV show Deadliest Catch, but in the last 15 years, it’s become much safer, in large part thanks to collaboration between industry, scientists and regulators. We wondered: are there lessons that the oil and gas industry could learn from the crab industry’s safety gains?
Workplace fatality data, specifically the data that goes into calculating workplace fatality rates, is quite possibly the most unruly data Inside Energy has wrangled yet. Not because it’s hard, but because it’s nearly impossible to capture the full story of how dangerous the oil and gas industry is at a local level. Here are some of the biggest challenges involved in analyzing workplace fatality data.
For more than a decade, Wyoming has been among the most dangerous places in the nation for workers. Fatalities peaked in the late 2000s, at the height of the state’s natural gas drilling frenzy. The number of deaths has fallen in recent years, but has the safety culture changed, or did the drilling rigs just move on?
In 2013, 4,405 Americans died from workplace injuries, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 112 – or 2.5 percent – of them worked in the oil and gas industry in jobs like drilling and servicing wells, operating equipment, and machining parts. This represents a decrease in fatalities from last year, when 142 oil and gas workers died. In the past decade, fatalities have risen along with the oil and gas boom in the U.S.:
But in 2013, the number of fatalities decreased, even though the number of oil and gas workers continued to grow. And, with the exception of 2009 when the boom slowed due to the recession, 2013 represents the lowest fatality rate (deaths per 100,000 workers) in the past decade:
How does oil and gas compare to other industries?
Inside Energy is a collaborative journalism initiative of partners across the US and supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting