Serious Injury Rate High in Oil, Gas Sector:OSHA Official

The Occupational Safety & Health Reporter™ provides complete news coverage and documentation of federal and state occupational safety and health programs, standards, legislation, regulations,...

By Stephen Lee

June 27 — A recently implemented reporting rule has illuminated high numbers of severe injuries in the oil and gas sector.

Throughout 2015, 242 of the injuries reported under the new rule—more than any other job category—occurred during support activities for oil and gas operations, Mike Marshall, chair of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s upstream oil and gas task force, said June 27.

Most of those workers are service contractors, said Marshall, speaking at the American Society of Safety Engineers annual convention in Atlanta. Oil and gas drilling contractors were 21st on the list with 75 reports during 2015.

“That tells us that, in the oil patch, we’re too having too many serious injuries,” said Marshall.

The new reporting procedures, which took effect Jan. 1, 2015, mandate that when an employee is hospitalized for in-patient treatment, OSHA must be notified within 24 hours of the incident leading to the hospitalization. Under the old rule, the reporting requirement was triggered by the hospitalization of at least three workers. In addition, the new rule requires employers to report an amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours of the incident. The old rule didn't require employers to notify OSHA of amputations or eye injuries.

Few OSHA Inspections

Of all the incidents reported to OSHA under the new rule, 62 percent resulted in no on-site agency inspection, Marshall said. Instead, most reports led to the employer doing its own inspection and proposing its own remedies.

In the upstream oil and gas sector, only 111 of the 344 reported incidents, or 32 percent, led to an OSHA inspection, according to Marshall.

“We find this is extremely effective as far as abating hazards, and also minimizing OSHA resources,” Marshall said. “If we’re not going out to every one of these things, maybe we’ve got more resources left over for enforcement and doing programmed, proactive inspections. If we had our druthers, obviously that’s where we’d want to be.”

Drastic Underreporting

Marshall also said OSHA believes only about half of all the injuries that qualify under the new rule are actually reported.

“So those numbers that we see, perhaps double those,” he said.

Those low numbers are partly due to the fact that some mid-sized and small employers aren’t aware of the new requirement, Marshall said. Other employers could be consciously flouting the rules as a “business risk” decision, he said.

Marshall also stressed that the program is intended to give employers the chance to work with OSHA compliance specialists to reduce hazards.

“It’s not necessarily that we’re coming out with a whip and doing an enforcement inspection,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephen Lee in Atlanta at stephenlee@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.