Offshore Injury Statistics
The oil and gas industry is huge in the United States and offshore drilling is a big part of it. In fact, there are over 10 million workers employed by the U.S. oil and gas industry, 300,000 of which work in Oil Drilling & Gas Extraction alone.
However, the offshore gas extraction industry is among the most dangerous for workers and for the environment. When accidents, such as explosions or spills, occur, the consequences are often severe.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) was established in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion with the goal of improving the safety of the offshore oil and gas industry. Part of this effort includes collecting offshore incident and injury data and statistics to identify trends or causes of accidents.
From 2012 through 2020, the BSEE collected data from 4,474 offshore incidents, resulting in 1,654 injuries and 23 deaths. While some of these numbers may seem low, the BSEE data is the most reliable source of offshore injury data available. However, these numbers do not include injuries and fatalities that were not categorized as work-related, occurred on foreign vessels, and incidents that occur during transit to and from offshore platforms, among others.
Below, we examine all incidents included in the BSEE database from the years 2012 through 2020 to provide as many offshore injury statistics and trends as we can.
Offshore Accidents by Year and Month
Since the establishment of the BSEE, no year had more offshore incidents than 2020, with 687. This year also had the highest number of fatalities on record, with 6 (tied with 2019).
Offshore Injuries by Year and Month
Table: Offshore Accidents, Injuries and Fatalities by Year
Where Do Offshore Accidents Occur Most Often?
The vast majority of offshore oil extraction occurs in the Gulf of Mexico and the incident data reflects this fact. Over 93 percent of all incidents occurred in the Gulf of Mexico region (4,166 total incidents), followed by under 7 percent in the Pacific region (304 total incidents). The database also includes 4 incidents that occurred in the Alaska region.
Table: Offshore Incidents by District
The regions are further broken down into districts. As you might expect, all of the top five districts are found in the Gulf of Mexico region.
|New Orleans District||1,638||8||532|
|Lake Jackson District||341||1||139|
|Lake Charles District||290||2||111|
|Santa Maria District||4||0||0|
Incidents by Operating Company
Table: The Top 50 Operators by Offshore Incidents, Injuries and Deaths
|Shell Offshore Inc.||415||2||169|
|BP Exploration & Production Inc.||319||1||113|
|Chevron U.S.A. Inc.||309||2||95|
|Anadarko Petroleum Corporation||288||0||115|
|Energy XXI GOM, LLC||243||1||91|
|Fieldwood Energy LLC||209||2||99|
|Arena Offshore, LP||168||0||60|
|Murphy Exploration & Production Company – USA||147||0||14|
|W & T Offshore, Inc.||130||0||61|
|Exxon Mobil Corporation||124||0||47|
|Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC||97||0||21|
|LLOG Exploration Offshore, L.L.C.||94||0||33|
|Cox Operating, L.L.C.||83||2||20|
|Walter Oil & Gas Corporation||72||0||39|
|Talos ERT LLC||66||1||14|
|Eni US Operating Co. Inc.||66||0||14|
|Fieldwood Energy Offshore LLC||64||0||29|
|GOM Shelf LLC||63||0||34|
|Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC||58||3||17|
|Talos Petroleum LLC||57||0||13|
|Talos Energy Offshore LLC||56||0||17|
|BHP Billiton Petroleum (GOM) Inc.||55||0||17|
|Stone Energy Corporation||55||0||23|
|EnVen Energy Ventures, LLC||48||1||22|
|Noble Energy, Inc.||44||0||9|
|EPL Oil & Gas, Inc.||40||0||22|
|McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC||39||0||17|
|Beta Operating Company, LLC||35||0||28|
|Energy Resource Technology GOM, Inc.||34||1||20|
|Castex Offshore, Inc.||33||0||11|
|ANKOR Energy LLC||31||0||17|
|Petrobras America Inc.||30||1||6|
|W & T Energy VI, LLC||28||0||13|
|Union Oil Company of California||23||0||5|
|Renaissance Offshore, LLC||17||1||9|
|Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP)||17||0||4|
|Equinor USA E&P Inc.||16||0||3|
|Statoil Gulf of Mexico LLC||16||0||6|
|Nexen Petroleum U.S.A. Inc.||16||0||7|
|Fieldwood SD Offshore LLC||15||0||5|
|Cobalt International Energy, L.P.||15||0||7|
|Marubeni Oil & Gas (USA) Inc.||15||0||3|
|Bennu Oil & Gas, LLC||14||0||3|
|Talos Oil and Gas LLC||13||1||3|
|MOBIL OIL EXPLORATION & PRODUCING SOUTHEAST INC.||13||0||3|
What Type of Incidents Occur the Most?
There are many types of accidents or incidents that are recorded in the BSEE’s database. The agency does, however, highlight several categories. These include:
- 27 percent of all incidents involved a crane (767 incidents)
- 17 percent of all incidents involved a fire (767 incidents)
- 10 percent involved human error (469 incidents)
- 6 percent of all incidents involved equipment failure (265 incidents)
- 5.7 involved another lifting device (255 incidents)
- 2 percent of all incidents involved either a minor or major collision (92 incidents)
Additionally, there were:
- 204 incidents involving gas release
- 180 spills greater than 1 BBL (this includes oil, drilling mud, or other chemicals)
- 25 incidents involving a loss of well control
- and 20 explosions
*Incidents may fall into more than one of these categories
How Are Offshore Oil and Gas Workers Hurt?
The BSEE data did not provide detailed information on how workers are injured or what activities they were engaged in when they were injured. However, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) releases annual safety report data that does help answer this question. In 2021, the highest number of offshore injuries occurred as a result of slips and trips (113 total), being struck by objects (106 total), and being caught in, between or under objects or machinery (98 total).
*This dataset includes both offshore and onshore incidents and is provided by 50 IOGP member companies operating in 95 countries.
Maritime Oil and Gas Injuries: Lost Work Time by Cause
|Slips and trips (at same height)||113|
|Struck by (not dropped object)||106|
|Caught in, under or between (excl. dropped objects)||98|
|Falls from height||48|
|Unspecified – Other||44|
|Cut, puncture, scrape||32|
|Exposure noise, chemical, biological, vibration, extreme temperature||17|
|Assault or violent act||3|
The report also explains what activities the injured workers were engaged in when they suffered an injury that caused them to miss time from work. Maintenance, inspection, and testing led the way, followed by drilling, workover, and well services, then production operations.
Maritime Oil and Gas: Lost Work Time by Activity
|Maintenance, inspection, testing||144|
|Drilling, workover, well services||101|
|Unspecified – other||84|
|Construction, commissioning, decommissioning||58|
|Lifting, crane, rigging, deck operations||42|
|Office, warehouse, accommodation, catering||22|
|Transport – Water, incl. marine activity||13|
|Transport – Land||10|
|Diving, subsea, ROV||3|
|Excavation, trenching, ground disturbance||1|
|Transport – Air||1|
Data and Methodology
The vast majority of data contained in this analysis comes from The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).
In specific cases, this data was supplemented with information from the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) 2021 safety report.