Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


Oil and Gas Well Drilling & Servicing

The unique hazards found in the oil and gas well drilling and servicing industry clearly place workers at substantial risk of serious injury and death. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics's 1993 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (BLS CFOI), there are nearly 100 deaths each year among 300,000 workers on approximately 5,400 rigs. This represents a risk of more than 12 deaths per thousand workers over a working lifetime or 45 years. OSHA is developing an action plan to reduce worker exposures to these hazards but is not initiating rulemaking at this time.

Hazard Description

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, the oil and gas industries (SIC 131 and 138) reported 5.8 lost workday injury cases per 100 workers in 1993. The construction industry, for comparison, reported 5.4 lost workday injury cases per 100 workers for the same year. The median number of days away from work in 1993 for the oil and gas industries was 9 days (SIC 131) and 16 days (SIC 138). In contrast, the median number of days away from work in the construction industry was 7.

The 1993 BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reported 93 fatalities in the oil and gas industries (1987 SICs 131 and 138) from a total of 337,600 workers. This equates to a risk of more than 12 deaths for every thousand workers over a working lifetime of 45 years. Of these fatalities, nearly one-third resulted from contact with objects and equipment, one-third involved transportation incidents, fifteen percent resulted from exposure to harmful substances or environments, ten percent resulted from falls, four percent resulted from fires and explosions, and four percent involved assaults and violent acts.

The drilling and servicing industry is involved in locating and extracting underground deposits of oil and gas, and in maintaining the equipment used to bring the oil and gas to the surface. Workers are exposed to a number of hazards associated with both the equipment and the various operations performed during the course of drilling and servicing.

Hazards unique to these operations include those related to cathead, rotary table, and well pressures. Workers involved in oil and gas well drilling and servicing must be free to move about the work area, often in close proximity to rotating equipment that cannot easily be guarded, such as the cathead or drawworks (essentially large winches) or the rotary table. They must also work in areas where there is high pressure, such as hoses, pipes or the well itself. Gas releases, such as hydrogen sulfide, can be common. Additionally, hazards common to many industries are present in the oil and gas industries, such as falls from elevations, slipping/tripping hazard, machine guarding hazards, and ionizing radiation.

Current Status

OSHA's general industry standards are applied to the oil and gas well drilling and servicing industry; however, they do not adequately address a number of hazards unique to the industry. When a specific standard is lacking, the agency has issued citations for hazardous conditions under the General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970).

OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in December 1983 to address the unique hazards found in drilling, servicing and special services operations for oil and gas wells. (1)

In the early 1980s the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued recommendations for safe work practices (2) and published a Health and Safety Guide for Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing (3); however, these guidelines are outdated. The American Petroleum Institute, the Association of Oil Well Servicing Contractors and the International Association of Drilling Contractors all have recommended practices, which are voluntary.

Rationale

The hazards associated with oil and gas well drilling and servicing meet the criteria for designation as an OSHA priority. The fatality rate is exceptionally high; a moderately large number of workers are at risk; the hazards and methods of control are reasonably well understood; and enforcement of the existing standards has not been adequate to control the problem.

References

  1. 48 FR 57202, December 28, 1983.
  2. NIOSH (1983). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: Comprehensive Safety Recommendations for Land-based Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing. (Publication No. 83-127).
  3. NIOSH (1980). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Health and Safety Guide for Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing (Publication No. 78-190.)



NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.