« Return to this article

Know the West

Latest: Toxic fumes inhalation added to list of oil & gas worker dangers

Center for Disease Control investigates recent deaths.


At least 89 workers died in the Interior West’s oil and gas fields between 2000 and 2006 (“Fatalities in the energy fields,” HCN, 4/2/07). In jobs that require long shifts working with heavy equipment and toxic materials, often with little training or supervision, the hazards are numerous — and critics say industry sometimes neglects safety in its rush to produce. “(The oil and gas industry) treats employees like a commodity,” AFL-CIO representative Kim Floyd told HCN in 2007.

The Centers for Disease Control is taking a closer look at fatalities involving hydrocarbon inhalation. A new CDC report says that between 2010 and 2014, nine oil and gas workers likely died from inhaling toxic gases, rather than of “natural causes,” as reported. “The industry is trying to make improvements. We’re moving in the right direction,” Kenny Jordan, executive director of the Association of Energy Service Companies, says. Still, recent research shows the industry’s death rate remains six to seven times higher than the national average for all jobs.