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Occupational Injuries & Illnesses versus Fatalities
The National Commission’s Report to the President on the BP Horizon spill, by
comparing an unsound statistical indicator (Fatality Rates) to a sound one (Injury andIllness Rates), inevitably reached an incorrect conclusion:
The United States has the highest reported rate of fatalities in offshore oil and gas drilling among its international peers, but it has the lowest reporting of injuries. This striking contrast suggests a significant underreporting of injuries in the US and highlights the need for better data collection to ensure needed attention to worker safety.
Fatalities are rare events. They are so random that statistically they are not capable of being used as indicators of performance. The U.S. accounts for roughly 50 to 60percent of the total offshore E&P hours among industrial countries
. Statistically, thatmeans that the U.S. has a 50 to 60 percent chance of experiencing this event. Other countries are much less likely to experience a fatality simply because they do not workenough E&P offshore hours. When another country does experience a fatality (e.g. Australia in 2008
), their rate instantly becomes higher than that of the United States.
Rare events cannot be estimated using statistics. The person most likely to experiencea rare event is the one who performs the task the most. For example, if we have onered ball in a bowl with 99 green ones, the probability that you would pick the red ball isdirectly proportional to how many balls you pick. If you pick 90 balls, you have a 90percent chance of picking the red one.The U.S. works roughly 50 to 60 percent of the offshore E&P hours of the industrialcountries
. On the other hand, Australia works about five percent of the hours. The U.S.is therefore about 20 times more likely to experience this rare event
than Australia. Given the rarity of the event and the small number of hoursmost countries work (relative to the U.S.), most countries either experience zero or oneevent.
According to the International Regulators’ Forum (IRF) data used in the Commission’s report at
According to IRF, the U.S. worked between 115 and 173 million offshore E&P hours per year between 2007 and2009.