Study Examines Dangerous Driving in Oil and Gas Industry

A recently published study connects risky driving to long work hours, lengthy commutes, and insufficient sleep.

Tired car driver falls asleep
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Long work hours, lengthy commutes, and insufficient sleep contributed to risky driving among oil and gas extraction workers, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. In addition, insufficient employer policies in these areas were associated with a greater likelihood of risky driving.

Compared with all US workers, oil and gas extraction workers were more likely to die on the job during 2003–2013, according to a previous study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related death in the industry, yet the underlying causes are unclear.

To learn more, researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health looked at factors linked to risky driving among oil and gas extraction workers based in Colorado, North Dakota, and Texas. Between October 2017 and February 2019, 498 of these workers responded to a survey about work schedules, workplace policies, and risky driving events, including feeling drowsy while driving, falling asleep, or nearly experiencing a motor vehicle crash. Nearly all respondents were male, more than one-third were Hispanic, and the largest percentage was 25–34 years old.

Survey results showed 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. These conditions were widespread, with nearly two-thirds of respondents reporting workdays of 12 or more hours and nearly half reporting fewer than 7 hours of sleep per workday. On average, respondents reported commuting almost 2 hours roundtrip. About one-fourth reported falling asleep while driving a work vehicle or feeling extremely drowsy more than once a month while driving at work. Furthermore, 17% reported nearly crashing while driving at work in the preceding week. Although most of the respondents’ employers had vehicle-safety policies, including reporting near-miss crashes, fewer reported employer policies in journey and fatigue management and maximum work hours: Journey management policies were reported by 47%. fatigue management policies were reported by 42%, and maximum work hour policies were reported by 39%.

These results underscore the need for employer policies to prevent risky driving events among workers in oil and gas extraction.

Find the study here.