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5 Reasons Oilfield Work Is So Dangerous

Two oilfield workers near dangerous heavy equipment at dusk.

The men and women who work in the oil and gas industry help make big oil companies billions of dollars each year. 

But the dangers facing well-servicing company workers, drilling contractors, operators and other oilfield workers put more and more lives at risk every day — especially as oil and gas extraction jobs have increased to over 119,000 over the last year, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

100 Oilfield Workers Killed on the Job Annually

Having successfully represented over 500 oilfield workers across Texas and the United States, our undefeated oilfield accident lawyers have seen, firsthand, how commonly serious and fatal accidents occur in the field.

The statistics highlight just how dangerous oilfield work really is:  

The 5 Most Common Oilfield Accidents

Here are five main dangers in the oilfield as recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  

1.) Truck Accidents  

What many do not realize is that motor vehicle crashes account for 50% of work-related deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry, per Center for Disease Control data.  In fact, nearly a quarter of fatal truck accidents in Texas occur near an oil field.   

When the fields are booming, drilling companies need thousands of heavy trucks and 18-wheelers to transport sand, water, and other supplies to and from their operations. But due to a chronic shortage of experienced drivers, they often hire inexperienced truckers who have never received any training on how to safely operate a big rig. Allowing an untrained driver behind the wheel of a 80,000 pound commercial vehicle puts everyone on the road at risk of serious injury or death.

Speeding, distracted driving, and driving while fatigued are also common among oilfield truck drivers and substantially increase the risk of a fatal crash. 

2.)  Fires & Explosions  

Whether a fire erupts from heavy machinery or ignites at an extraction site, the risk of serious oilfield burn injuries are a constant hazard in the oil and gas industry.  

The risk of a catastrophic fire and explosion is amplified on the oil field because of: 

  • The presence of volatile oil and gases. Oil and gas are combustible and extremely flammable. As a result, oilfield and oil rig workers are at significant risk for fires or explosions when any of these elements are released into the environment and come into contact with an ignition source, which can be anything from static electricity or a spark to a diesel engine nearby.
  • Pressurized-equipment can fail. Compressed gasses and deteriorating pipelines are known to cause sudden pressurized equipment failures that can result in explosions or well “blowouts.” 

In our experience, a  large number of fires and explosions are preventable catastrophes that result from inadequate training, rushing jobs to extract as much oil and gas before prices fall, and a failure to comply with safety rules and industry standards, like the American Petroleum Institute regulations.  

In 2020, for example, a blowout at a Burleson County, Texas, oilfield tragically killed 3 workers and sent another to the hospital with third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body.

Our undefeated oilfield explosion lawyers, who recovered the #1 Largest Oilfield Injury Settlement in U.S. History for the surviving worker,  discovered that the operator violated company safety policies and API requirements by failing to utilize a mechanical and hydrostatic barrier to properly kill the well before beginning workover operations. 

3.)  Falls and Being Struck by Equipment 


Roughnecks, derrick operators, and many other oilfield workers perform their duties on elevated platforms and equipment situated at considerable heights. While working at heights is dangerous in itself, a number of additional hazards can heighten the likelihood of a slip, trip, or fall, including slick well pads, tangled cords and cables, physically demanding tasks, and the complex nature of heavy machinery in general. 

In a study of occupational fatalities from a fall in oil and gas extraction, the CDC found that deadly falls occurred most frequently when drilling rigs were being assembled or disassembled at the wellsite or when workers were removing or inserting drill pipe into the wellbore.   

Getting Struck or Crushed by Equipment 

Three out of every five oilfield injuries are caused by an oilfield worker being crushed, struck by, and caught between an object. 

Oil and gas equipment often contains numerous pinch points. A crushing accident may occur when an equipment operator inadvertently backs into and pins a co-worker. Another common scenario is an equipment operator striking another worker with a moving crane. Unguarded or neglected belt wheels, hoist blocks, conveyors, pumps, top drives, and other equipment also have the potential to cause debilitating crushing injuries that could leave an oilfield worker permanently damaged. 

4.) Exposure to Oil Tank Fumes & Other Toxic Chemicals 

Toxic gases are life-threatening in the oil patch. Oilfields often release poisonous gases, such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S), an odorless gas that can be lethal. Breathing in these gases can also lead to severe health issues, and in an industry where many work inside of confined spaces like storage tanks, the danger is imminent. 

Incidents involving H2S and other dangerous gasses are all too common: In September 2023, for example, a 30-year-old oilfield worker tragically died after being exposed to fumes while working inside an oil tank in McClean County, Oklahoma. After breathing in the fumes, he reportedly collapsed into 12 – 18 inches of crude at the bottom of the tank. 

5.)  Fatigue  

Oilfield workers can clock in for up to 14 days in a row before getting a day off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Consecutive 12-hour shifts aren’t at all unusual either. 

These long hours and irregular shifts can lead to chronic fatigue. Fatigued workers are more prone to mistakes that can result in potentially fatal accidents. Many workers may also be rushing to keep up with production schedules — pushing the envelope and their luck. Add in the heavy machinery and equipment and you have a potentially deadly combination. 

Hurt in the Oilfield? Contact Our Undefeated Oilfield Accident Attorneys for a Free Consultation at 888-603-3636. 

Having successfully represented thousands of workers against the largest oil and gas companies in the world, we’ve seen that the majority of oilfield accidents, explosions, and injuries are entirely preventable and often the result of companies placing profits over safety. 

If you were injured in an oilfield accident, contact our Undefeated Oilfield Accident Attorneys at 1-888-603-3636 or click here for a free consultation. 

Our Oilfield Injury Lawyers have won Billions for workers who were seriously injured, catastrophically burned, and tragically killed in preventable accidents and explosions at drilling operations in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming, including:

All consultations are free, and you won’t pay us a dime unless we win your case.  

We proudly serve Harris County, Midland County, and its surrounding areas:

Zehl & Associates Injury & Accident Lawyers – Houston
2700 Post Oak Blvd #1000, Houston, TX 77056
(888) 603-3636

Zehl & Associates Injury & Accident Lawyers – Midland
306 W Wall St Suite 701, Midland, TX 79701
(432) 220-0000