Alejandra Ramirez-Cardenas, MPH, NIOSH; Kyla Hagan-Haynes, MPH, NIOSH; Kait Wingate, MPH, Synergy America, Inc.
The U.S. oil and gas extraction (OGE) industry employed 471,772 workers in 2019 and has a fatality rate that is five times higher than for all U.S. workers. Work in this industry is done 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and much of that work is performed outdoors. Shift work, long work hours, and long commutes to and from remote locations are all are common in the onshore OGE industry. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatalities among OGE workers, and reports show falling asleep at the wheel as a contributing factor. Information about workers? driving behaviors, work schedules, and work environment is limited. To better understand motor vehicle injuries and associated risk factors in the U.S. onshore OGE industry, researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) administered a questionnaire and short interview with 500 oil and gas extraction workers at worksites in Colorado, North Dakota, and Texas between 2017 and 2019. Questions included worker demographics, employer characteristics, work and commute schedules, worker health and exposures, safety culture, training, and driving behaviors.
Survey results demonstrated that the mean total hours worked per day for survey respondents was 11.9 hours, and the mean total daily commuting time was 1.8 hours. Company motor vehicle safety policies that were almost universally reported by respondents included seat belt use and mandatory crash reporting. Less commonly reported motor vehicle safety policies included journey management and fatigue management. The most frequently reported risky driving behavior was talking on a hands-free cell phone (59.8%). About a quarter of respondents reported other risky behaviors such as ever having fallen asleep while driving a work vehicle (27.2%), feeling drowsy while driving a vehicle for work (once per week or more, 26.1%), and driving 10 mph or more above the speed limit (24.9%). Regression results identified several variables that were significantly associated with risky driving behaviors or poor outcomes. These include less sleep, extended daily commute time, extended work hours, alternative work schedules, working in North Dakota, no employer maximum work hours policy, in-vehicle monitoring systems, no ban on hands-free cell phones, and no employer fatigue management policy.
Previous studies that have examined worker fatigue in the OGE industry have focused on offshore workers outside of the U.S. The majority of OGE workers in the U.S. work onshore and the nature of work in the onshore OGE industry has been shown to make workers susceptible to adverse safety and health outcomes as a result of fatigue. Yet, the worker and work design factors contributing to worker fatigue in the U.S. onshore OGE industry have not been described. To further understand the extent to which long work hours, limited sleep, and fatigue are affecting onshore OGE workers, NIOSH researchers are launching a newly funded research project to assess fatigue in the OGE industry. The goals of this proposed research are to: 1) Better understand the extent to which fatigue and its antecedents are affecting U.S. onshore OGE workers and to 2) Identify worker and work design factors to consider when developing and implementing fatigue management strategies in the OGE industry; and to 3) Determine the state of Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) and other fatigue mitigation strategies in place for participating companies and if these strategies are associated with better safety outcomes. To achieve these goals the researchers plan to conduct on-site worker fatigue assessments using validated questionnaires, alertness tests, and physiological measures using wearable technology; identify worker-level and work design factors critical to fatigue management in the OGE industry through focus groups with workers and interviews with front-line managers; and evaluate the state of FRMS and other fatigue management strategies in participating companies using a unique tool developed by the researchers. This mixed-methods approach will bring together data and perspectives from multiple levels of each participating company creating a more complete picture of the worker and company-level factors that may affect the workers? work schedules, levels of fatigue, and sleep patterns.
The goal of this project is to produce baseline estimates of fatigue for onshore OGE workers, initial guidance to employers about the types of work tasks, work schedules, and operational environments that should be targeted for fatigue-related interventions, and case studies of fatigue management in OGE. This project will guide future development and evaluation of fatigue management strategies (including FRMS) in collaboration with industry partners with the goal of reducing fatigue-related worker injuries in the OGE industry.