Federal Government Offers Stricter Counts Of Offshore Oil And Gas Worker Deaths

A joint investigation finds the deaths of several workers while on offshore jobs weren’t counted.

By Terri LangfordAugust 26, 2021 2:29 pm, ,

The federal government undercounts oil and gas worker deaths, according to a new journalism investigation by a team that includes Southerly and Drilled News.

Since the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and spilled more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government has worked to improve worker safety.

While journalists found that the number of worker deaths have declined since then, they also found that unless the deaths were tied directly to oil and gas tasks, deaths on the job were not counted.

“If someone’s on their way out to a platform and they die in a helicopter crash or in a capsizing of a boat [en route to work], they’re not counted,” said Sara Sneath, a freelance journalist who authored the investigation for Southerly. “Or if they’re on the rig itself and they die of a heart attack, then they’re not counted.”

Sneath found that of the 83 known offshore worker fatalities that occurred between 2005 and 2019, about 30% — or 24 deaths — were classified as “non-occupational.” The non-work-related fatalities during this period occurred an average of 60 miles away from shore, according to her analysis.

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