Oil and gas extraction workers are more likely to encounter risky driving events due to long shifts, lengthy commutes and fatigue, according to research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
A lack of employer policies in these areas were also associated with a greater likelihood of risky driving, the research report states.
Industry workers more likely to die in crashes
Compared to all other U.S. workers, oil and gas extraction workers were more likely to die on the job between 2003 and 2013, according to a previous study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the oil and gas industry, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related death.
In an effort to learn more about the underlying causes, NIOSH researchers looked at factors linked to risky driving among oil and gas extraction workers in Colorado, North Dakota and Texas.
These workers were given surveys about work schedules, workplace policies and risky driving events between October 2017 and February 2019. Risky driving events included feeling drowsy while driving, falling asleep or nearly experiencing a crash. Almost all of the 498 respondents were male, more than one-third were Hispanic and the largest percentage were 25-34 years old.
12-hour shifts, less than 7 hours sleep were widespread
Survey results revealed that “long work hours and commutes, insufficient sleep, and a lack of employer policies in these areas increased the likelihood of one or more risky driving events.”
All of these conditions were widespread, according to the report, with almost two-thirds of respondents reporting workdays of 12 or more hours and almost half reporting less than seven hours of sleep per work day. Further, the average commute came out to about a two-hour roundtrip.
One-fourth of the workers surveyed reported falling asleep while driving a work vehicle or feeling extremely drowsy more than once a month while driving at work. About 17% reported almost crashing while driving at work in the preceding week.
More policies needed on fatigue, maximum work hours
Most of the workers reported their employers had vehicle-safety policies, but fewer reported employer policies on journey and fatigue management and maximum work hours. According to the survey, 47% of employers had policies on journey management, 42% had policies on fatigue management and 39% had policies regarding maximum work hours.
Researchers concluded these results “underscore the need for employer policies to prevent risky driving events among workers in oil and gas extraction.”