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How Fatigue in the Oil Field Industry Can Be Dangerous

May 17, 2023
Worker experiencing mental and physical fatigue working in the oil field industry

Working in the oil field industry can be incredibly lucrative — but it also comes with significant risks. If you’re like many oil field workers, you work longer hours than you probably should. Long days filled with hard physical labor or mentally draining tasks can lead to severe fatigue. And unfortunately, mental and physical fatigue in the oil field industry is a recipe for disaster. 

What Causes Fatigue in the Oil Field Industry?

Oil field jobs are strenuous and taxing, and workers become fatigued for many reasons. Causes of fatigue in the oil field industry include:

  • Constant traveling: Many workers in the oil field industry travel to and from worksites across the country on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, many times requiring long drives, lengthy  flights, time zone changes, and busy schedules.
  • Long work hours: Working 12+hour shifts is common in the oil field industry. Pairing these long hours with labor-intensive work duties means employees are often severely fatigued in the last few hours of their shifts.  
  • Physically demanding roles: Oil field positions often involve standing for long periods of time, lifting heavy equipment and tools, and working in hot environments, all of which can make workers feel tired at the end of the day. 
  • Night shifts: Employees who work overnight often struggle to sleep during the day. 
  • Mandatory overtime: Oil companies often strongly encourage or require employees to work overtime, reducing the amount of time workers have to rest between shifts. 

In many cases, workers do not have control over the conditions that can lead them to exhaustion, as they must follow their employers’ instructions. When accidents occur, employers are often liable, not workers. 

Fatigue Risks for Oil Workers

Showing up to work tired can be dangerous in any field, but in the oil field industry, it poses even more significant risks. Oil workers are often responsible for operating heavy machinery, driving work vehicles, and overseeing large-scale operations. Being fatigued can impair their ability to conduct these tasks safely.

Studies have shown that fatigue negatively impacts reaction times. When you’re tired, you can’t respond to hazards as quickly as you can while awake and alert. You risk overlooking hazards or being unable to respond to impending danger fast enough to prevent accidents. 

When oil workers are fatigued, they risk:

  • Car accidents
  • Industrial accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Exposure to hazardous materials
  • Electrocutions

Oil Companies Need Fatigue Risk Management

Whose fault is it when a fatigued oil worker becomes involved in an accident? In many cases, the employer is at least partially liable. 

Oil field companies should address the causes of worker fatigue that lead to devastating accidents. Implementing fatigue risk management protocols may include:

  • Limiting work hours for physically demanding tasks
  • Giving workers adequate breaks throughout their shifts
  • Capping the amount of overtime a worker can complete each pay period
  • Offering mental health resources for workers who feel burdened
  • Arranging schedules so that workers have ample time to rest between shifts
  • Identifying tired and fatigued workers in order to prevent them from engaging in potentially dangerous activities

When companies fail to implement these risk management procedures, they may become liable for accidents that occur due to fatigue. Workers’ compensation and personal injury claims can help victims pay for their injuries and other resulting expenses. 

Are You a Victim of an Oil Field Accident Due to Fatigue? 

Did an oil company fail to take property safety measures to minimize fatigue, leading to an accident that caused your injuries? If so, they may be financially liable. 

Work with a law firm that supports the safety and health of oil field workers. Call Fadduol, Cluff, Hardy & Conaway, P.C., today at 432-335-0399 to discuss your rights or learn more about the risks of fatigue in the oil field industry.