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A Closer Look at the Oil and Gas Industry’s Commitment to Safety

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on February 6, 2019 at 9:41 AM

One of the most dangerous industries in the world is notably one of the most committed to workplace safety.

The new Workplace Safety Report from API indicates that occupational injuries and illnesses from the oil and gas industry occurred at a substantially lower rate than private sector jobs, and that rate is steadily dropping.

API’s Workplace Safety Report includes the safety rates for nonfatal job-related illnesses and injuries that occurred in the oil and gas industry and compares them to other U.S. industries. You can view the report in full via the API website, but here are a few of the most notable highlights.

Non-Fatal Injury and Illness Rate Is Lower for Oil and Gas

In 2017, the oil and gas industry rate of non-fatal injuries and illnesses was 1.7 incidents per 100 workers, compared to 2.8 incidents per 100 workers in the private sector. Both figures have been on the decline since 2008, where rates sat at 2.9 incidents and 3.9 incidents, respectively.

The Average Incident Rate in the Oil and Gas Industry Has Substantially Declined

Historically, the incident rate in the oil and gas industry has always been lower than that of the entire U.S. private sector. But 2017 brought an all-time low for both parties. What’s more, the incident rate for the oil and gas industry has dropped a massive 41% since 2008. The U.S. private sector’s incident rate has dropped 28% since the same time.

To break this down further, the report compares the incident rate of another traditionally dangerous industry—mining. In 2017, the rate of nonfatal job-related illnesses and industries in the mining industry was 1.5 incidents per 100 workers, compared to 1.1 in the oil and gas industry. In the offshore industry (a sector of the oil and gas industry), the incident rate was 0.6 per 100 workers, which was a slight increase from the previous year’s 0.5, but still significantly lower than the national average.

Natural Gas Proves Safer than the U.S. Utilities Sector

The Workplace Safety Report compares the incident rate of natural gas personnel versus all U.S. utilities. Though close in numbers, the natural gas industry experienced 1.9 incidents per 100 workers, compared to 2.0 incidents in the U.S. utilities sector.

Since 2008, natural gas personnel has experienced more incidents than other utilities. 2017 marks an important shift that reinforces the effect that more attention to workplace safety and practices has the power to move the needle in the right direction. The number of incidents has decreased more than 50% since 2008’s incident rate of 4.3 and will ideally continue moving in this direction.

Pipeline Infrastructure Proves to Be a Safe Transportation Method

Pipeline transport safety played an important role in keeping the oil and gas industry well below the average incident rate. In 2017, the rate of nonfatal illnesses and injuries among pipeline transportation personnel was 0.0 per 100 workers, versus a rate of 4.6 in the U.S. warehousing and transportation sector.

This figure for the oil and gas industry has remained largely unchanged since 2008, with only 2016 showing a slight variation of 0.1 incidents per 100 workers. For the U.S. transportation and warehousing industry, 2017’s incident rate reflects a decline from 2008’s rate of 5.7 incidents per 100 workers.

What Other Industries Can Learn From the API Workplace Safety Report

The oil and gas industry hasn’t gotten less dangerous, as many of its operational risks and hazards still exist. Rather, it’s the attention that industry leaders and companies have placed on workplace safety that has helped to reduce the number of job-related illnesses and incidents.

Industry leaders have emphasized the importance of ongoing training, continuous improvement, and preventative efforts. The industry continues to invest in safer technologies, like EHS software, while refining practices and materials to promote a safer work environment. Some leaders have gone as far to say they believe that an incident rate of zero is achievable—a bold yet highly desirable goal that other industries would do well to adopt for themselves.

The industry is moving in the right direction, and other industries should follow their lead. Even OSHA has incorporated some of API’s safety practices into their own standards.

Regardless of your industry or company’s safety history, there are always ways to improve. Check out API’s Workplace Safety Report and discover how you can use their data to upgrade your own workplace safety program.

Featured resource: Improving EHS Functions in Oil and Gas 

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, EHS Management, Mining & Metals, Oil & Gas, Incident Management, Safety Management, Safety Culture

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