CDC: Derrickmen Face Highest Risk for Fall Fatalities in Oil and Gas Extraction
A CDC analysis of OSHA data identifies the workers most at risk for fall fatalities in the oil and gas extraction industry and the tasks most likely to lead to fatal falls. From 2005 through 2014, a total of 63 workers in oil and gas extraction died from falls, according to the April 28 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Most of the falls occurred among derrickmen while handling pipe, assembling the drilling rig, or dismantling the rig in preparation for transport. The MMWR report characterizes the work performed by derrickmen as physically demanding, repetitive, and requiring great concentration. The fatal falls occurred from heights greater than 30 feet. The complexity of coordinating workers, vehicles, and equipment during the assembly and dismantling of drilling rigs contributed to some of the fatalities. CDC also determined that legally required fall protection was not used in 86 percent of the total falls studied. For the 15 fatalities involving workers who were wearing safety harnesses, the fall occurred because the harnesses were not anchored. CDC notes that visual or verbal checks by the derrickmen or the drillers might have prevented some of these falls. The report recommends several actions that oil and gas extraction operations can implement to prevent fatal falls. Engineering controls such as automated rig technologies can allow derrickmen to handle drill pipe while working from the drill floor, and administrative controls can remind derrickmen to ensure that their harnesses are anchored. Workers should also be trained in the proper use of personal protective equipment.