Any discussion of workforce issues in high-risk industries such as those included in this study must include a look at the safety and health of both current and future workers. Because these industries include hazards not often encountered by other industries, it is paramount that all workers—those preparing to enter the workforce, those actively working in it, and those ready to retire from it—be protected by adequate safety and health practices. This chapter includes a discussion of data from two main industries, mining, and oil and gas extraction. It should not be inferred that the health and safety of workers in other industry segments are not important, but only that the data for mining and oil and gas extraction are more complete, are readily available, and can be used to illustrate trends that are common across the other industries as well. The nuclear industry is not addressed because it is unique and not really comparable with the other industries, since its workforce is very stable and receives initial and continuing training that is extremely specialized and rigorous, owing to the singular nature of this industry.
Mining and oil and gas extraction and production are arguably the most “mature” industries included in this study. Mining has been an underpinning for civilization for thousands of years, but until relatively recently, the miners themselves have not been protected by safety regulations. In the early 1900s, an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 U.S. coal miners died every year. Metal/nonmetal miners, most of whom worked in the mines in the West, were also killed at an appalling rate. Wallace (1976) reports that in the mines that made up the fabled Comstock
FIGURE 6.1 Coal fatalities for 1900 through 2010. NOTES: Total number of coal mining fatalities from 1900 through 2010 is 104,722, and office workers were included starting in 1973. SOURCE: Data from MSHA (2012b).
Lode of Nevada, there were periods when a miner was killed every week, and others were severely injured every day. No accurate records were kept, however, and it was not until 1911 that the federal government even included metal/nonmetal mining in its fatality reports. The number of miners actually working in metal/nonmetal operations was not tracked until 1931. Figures 6.1 and 6.2 show coal and metal/nonmetal fatalities for 1900-2010, respectively.
A particularly deadly year for coal miners was 1907, with 3,242 miners killed, mostly in mine fires and explosions (MSHA, 2012b). When the Monongha mine exploded and killed 362 men (the worst mine disaster in U.S. history in terms of lives lost), societal pressure convinced Congress to establish the U.S. Bureau of Mines in an attempt to make mining safer. Founded in 1910, the Bureau had no regulatory authority. Rather, it was expected to investigate disasters and perform research on how to prevent such occurrences. One of the charges given to the Bureau was to keep statistics on the mining population. Consequently, there are specific employment and accident/injury data available for these sectors that are not available for other segments of the energy industry and that can be used to highlight concerns common to other industries that lack these detailed data. These databases are a wealth of information on industrial accidents and injuries. MSHA, which was separated from the Bureau of Mines and moved to the Department of Labor in 1975, maintains these data and makes them available through its Web site.1
Although the government has required mines to provide data since the mid-
FIGURE 6.2 Metal/nonmetal fatalities for 1900 through 2010. NOTES: Total number of metal/nonmetal mining fatalities from 1900 through 2010 is 23,608. Metal/nonmetal operations include mills (metal, nonmetal, and stone), sand and gravel, surface (metal, nonmetal, and stone), and underground (metal, nonmetal, and stone). Sand and gravel miners were included starting in 1958, and office workers at mine sites were included starting in 1973. SOURCE: Data from MSHA (2012c).
1970s on the number of person-hours worked (MSHA, 2012d)2 and detailed information on every reportable accident or injury (noninjury incidents are reportable if they shut down a working area for more than 30 minutes regardless of whether any workers are involved), information on the worker population itself was not generally gathered. (Annual accident/injury data can be found online in MSHA’s Accident/Injury database [MSHA, 2012d]). A large demographic study completed by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1986 provides an in depth look at the U.S. mining populations, as reported by Butani and Bartholomew (1988a,b). Coal mining and metal/nonmetal mining are discussed separately in the study because of the significant differences in practices. According to this study, the total estimated metal/nonmetal workforce in 1986 was around 179,800, while the coal workforce was around 152,800. These data exclude the category of office workers, which explains a discrepancy between the totals reported by the Bureau’s study and by MSHA for the same years. The mean age for metal/nonmetal workers in 1986 was 40, while for coal miners it was 42 for anthracite and 39 for bituminous coal. These coal data were kept separately because of the significant disparities in how the two are mined, as well as the differences in worker populations. Anthracite miners numbered only around 2,600 in 1986, a small percentage of the total coal mining population, and the percentage is even smaller now. Today’s miners are significantly older than other workers. BLS data, which include oil and gas extraction in the mining statistics, support this, showing that
2 Available at available at http://www.msha.gov/stats/part50/p50y2k/aetable.htm.
FIGURE 6.3 Age distribution for all industries and coal mining, 2003. SOURCE: NIOSH.
the U.S. mining population is consistently and significantly older than the general labor force. Figure 6.3 provides a comparison of age distributions for coal mining and all industries for 2003, and Figure 6.4 provides an historic comparison of the median ages for the U.S. and mining workforces by year.
The oil and gas industries show similar trends. A study conducted in 2008 showed that nearly one-third of the global petrotechnical workforce is over the age of 50 (see Figure 2.5 in Chapter 2) and that the distribution of these workers is truly bimodal, with the larger groups under age 30 and over age 50. There is a gap between these age groups, which is often attributed to the economic downturns experienced in the 1990s. The gap corresponds to those in the 35- to 45-year age range who normally would be transitioning into management positions. As is stated in the section in Chapter 2 on the oil and gas sector, companies may have difficulty finding qualified, experienced managers and supervisors, which will also affect the safety and health of their employees.
National Mining Association data support these statistics, reporting in their 2010 coal miner profile that the median age of U.S. coal miners is 46, with 20 years of experience (NMA, 2011). Data from the BLS Current Population Survey on employed persons by detailed industry and age, given as 2011 annual averages (BLS, 2012b), showed that all of the sectors included under the mining category are reporting an aging workforce. Although the BLS does not gather this type of data for the emerging industries included in our study, such as solar and wind energy, discussions with industry representatives suggest that these sectors have attracted a much younger workforce. Although they may not have to deal with the challenges of an aging workforce, it is reasonable to assume that they will face
FIGURE 6.4 Median age of U.S. and mining labor forces by year. SOURCE: Data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in Brandon (2012, Fig. 9, p. 12).
the same concerns as the mining, oil, and gas sectors that have a large number of young, inexperienced workers coming in to replace retiring miners and oil and gas workers.
Mining and oil and gas extraction, like most of the other industries included in this study, are physically demanding, particularly for entry-level workers who generally begin their careers as laborers. These are also occupations that rely upon on-the-job training rather than classroom education to train new hires. Workers learn the job from older, more experienced workers rather than from manuals or books. The construction industry, where many of the workers involved in solar and wind energy are found, is very similar to mining and oil and gas in how workers are trained, although more formal training or apprentice programs are offered in some areas by labor organizations. Inexperience is a significant factor in workplace injuries and fatalities among high-risk industries. MSHA released an Accident Prevention Alert recently that reported that of the 21 coal miners killed in 2011, ten of them had less than 1 year of experience at the task on which they were working (MSHA, 2012a).
Inexperience on the job is not solely related to age because older workers often change professions late in their careers and are attracted to the high wages paid by the mining industry (see Table 2.8 and 2.9 in the Mining section of Chapter 2). Even so, inexperience is most often a factor for new, young workers. Margolis (2010) reported that numerous studies have shown that younger workers are more likely to be injured on the job, and although this may be due
FIGURE 6.5 Fatalities per 100,000 workers based on age group in metal and nonmetal mines from 2002 to 2006. SOURCE: Ismail and Haight (2010).
to causes as diverse as temporary work assignments, lack of proper training, or inexperience, the fact remains that younger workers are at risk. Ismail and Haight (2010) analyzed metal/nonmetal mining fatalities between 2002 and 2006 and found that workers between the ages of 17 and 24 had the highest rate of fatalities (47.37 per 100,000 workers) among all age groups of miners who did similar tasks, with workers over the age of 55 rated second at 32.38 fatalities per 100,000 workers (see Figure 6.5). For a workforce that has been described as bimodal, with a large percentage of workers either younger than 25 or older than 50, these are grim statistics.
The trend holds true for oil and gas extraction workers as well. These data represent what is known as the “upstream” portion of the industry, excluding the midstream, or pipeline and transportation portion, and the downstream, or refineries. During the 6-year period from 2003 to 2008, 648 people died on the job, for a fatality incidence rate that, at 29.1 per 100,000 workers, was nearly 7.5 times higher than the 3.9 per 100,000 rate of all U.S. industries (NIOSH, 2013). Although length of service was reported for only 56 percent of these incidents, inexperienced workers, generally known in the industry as short service employees (SSEs), accounted for 55 percent of all fatalities where experience was reported (Retzer and Hill, 2011). Figure 6.6 shows the leading causes of fatality by company for U.S. oil and gas extraction workers for 2003 to 2008, and Figure 6.7 provides the number and percentage of fatalities by length of employment.
Data gathered by the Texas Oil and Gas Association corroborate these statistics. Eighty-nine oil and gas workers died in Texas between 2001 and October 2010. Thirty-four percent of them had 3 months or less of experience, and 65
FIGURE 6.6 Leading causes of fatality by company for U.S. oil and gas extraction workers for 2003 to 2008. SOURCE: Retzer and Hill (2011).
FIGURE 6.7 Number and percentage of fatalities by length of employment. NOTE: Length of employment was missing from 287 fatalities. SOURCE: Retzer and Hill (2011).
FIGURE 6.8 Fatalities by length of employment for Texas oil and gas workers (2001 to October 2010). SOURCE: Stephens (2011). Used with permission from Texas Mutual Insurance Company and the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
percent had a year or less of experience (Figure 6.8). These data also provide information on workers who are seriously injured on the job. Considering fatal injuries plus catastrophic injuries (injuries costing more than $100,000), 31 percent occurred to workers with 3 months or less of experience and 66 percent occurred to workers with a year or less of experience (see Figure 6.9). It is clear that high-risk extractive industries can be particularly deadly for young or inexperienced workers (Stephens, 2011).
A definition of “older workers” can be elusive. According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, workers over 40 must be protected. The Older Americans Act, however, defines older workers as those over 55 (Ismail and Haight, 2010). Others define the aging process as a loss of physical and mental abilities rather than as a strictly chronological development. One fact that researchers can agree on, however, is that for high-risk industries, older workers (here defined as those 55 or older) have higher fatality rates than workers between 25 and 55, and when injured on the job, they have the highest median days lost (see, e.g. Figure 6.5).
Fotta and Bockosh (2000) present findings that show that the mining work force is aging, and that older workers are much more likely to be found as supervisors, electricians, mechanics, or surface equipment operators than as laborers or underground equipment operators. These are people the industry looks to as expert miners and as mentors to an increasingly inexperienced workforce, and yet the percentage of these key people who are injured on the job or are impaired by work-related health issues has risen dramatically (Figure 6.10). When they are
FIGURE 6.9 Fatalities and catastrophic injuries by length of employment for Texas oil and gas workers (2001 to October 2010). SOURCE: Stephens (2011). Used with permission from Texas Mutual Insurance Company and the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
unable to work, who will provide the industrial wisdom needed to train a new generation of workers?
The International Labor Organization estimates that by the year 2025, 30 percent of the population of North America will be over 55 years of age (Ilmarinen, 2001). This situation impacts all industries, but is extremely acute for high-risk industries, where hazards are part of the daily work. In a recent talk, Dr. John Howard, Director of NIOSH, presented data from the U.S. Census Bureau that detail the percentage of growth for different age groups in the workforce (Howard, 2009; see also Figure 6.11). The figures are dramatic—all groups under 55 years of age show nominal growth, or in the case of 35- to 44-year-olds, a loss. The category between 55 and 64 is expected to grow by 73 percent and those over 65 by 54 percent. The issue of an aging workforce is a major concern to occupational safety and health.
The imminent retirement of a significant percentage of the mining and oil and gas workforces creates a looming crisis for extractive industries. To do the work, these industries require workers, and their workers are increasingly either aging with a high level of experience, or young with little or no experience. Discussions presented in previous chapters have shown that there is a significant time investment that is required before an inexperienced person can be turned into a knowledgeable, competent employee (see Figures 2.27 and 2.28 in the Mining section of Chapter 2). The safety and health problem is obvious: How do these industries protect both young and aging workers during the time it takes to develop the needed expertise? The NIOSH mining program states that this is a two-pronged dilemma: which includes “1) the ability to transfer the knowledge that older . . . workers have to younger workers, and 2) the need to maintain a
FIGURE 6.10 Percentage of injured or ill miners, age 45 years and over, by operator canvass class and year, MSHA, 1988-1998. SOURCE: Fotta and Bockosh (2000).
. . . Continuing Into the Future
FIGURE 6.11 Percent growth in the U.S. workforce by age (2000-2020). SOURCE: Howard (2009).
healthy, age-diverse workforce despite the fact that many older workers may be experiencing normal physical and cognitive changes that accompany aging.” (NIOSH, 2012). Workers who are approaching retirement age must deal with the inherent hazards of the work at the same time they are experiencing the physical changes that accompany aging. Keeping them safe through the final years of their careers is a challenge that must be addressed by the energy and extractive industries.
The critical reality of losing the experienced workers is that they are not only the mentors to the inexperienced workforce, but they are also the keepers of the historical and corporate memory. They are the people who have first-hand experience about what has gone wrong in the past and what was done to address those situations. As was stated in Chapter 2 on the oil and gas industry, “Without experienced supervision and guidance the past mistakes will be made all over again and the past learning is forgotten until new knowledge is acquired all over again.” As our industries lose talent and experience, we, as a nation, not only lose capacity but also capability to perform the tasks at hand.”
All of the energy and extractive industries are projecting increased needs for workers for the foreseeable future (see figures from all of the chapters showing projections for workers). Our nation is not likely to decrease its need for raw materials and energy, and it is these industries that provide them (see Figure 2.26 in the Mining section of Chapter 2). Options for finding additional workers are limited, especially as other countries face the same shortages and attempt to attract U.S. workers with higher pay (see discussion on Global Competition in the Mining section of Chapter 2). Although a short-term strategy used by some companies is to offer a slightly higher wage in the hopes of luring workers from their competitors, this is not a long-term solution, for it does little to increase the available pool of workers. More viable options include:
- Hiring new, young, inexperienced people and finding a way to keep them safe until they have gained enough experience to do the work, which involves finding and using mentors and developing and providing effective training;
- Retaining older, experienced workers and either redesigning the work in order to compensate for their aging or transferring them into positions that do not require rigorous physical effort;
- Bringing workers in from other countries and designing multicultural training and communication programs in order to ensure that they have the basic understanding to be safe, productive workers despite language barriers;
- Attracting new workers at all levels from other disciplines (which may detract from those other disciplines); and
- Opening these fields to nontraditional workers not currently found in large numbers, such as women and minorities.
All of these options will likely be needed if the United States is to meet the demand for energy and raw materials in the future. Training and retention of workers will be overriding requisites of our workforce strategy.
In addressing the workforce challenges, proper training is critical. New workers are often exposed to environmental or occupational hazards for which they have no experience or even language to describe. Training is necessary for all new employees that describe common health and safety hazards and how to deal with them, as well as survival skills needed to respond to disasters such as the Upper Big Branch Fire or the explosion of the Deep Water Horizon oil rig.
It should be noted that this report does not include a detailed discussion of all that should be included in safety and health training for new workers because each industry has its own challenges and providing recommendations about what should be included in such training is beyond the scope of this study. It also is important to note that the majority of incidents in the industries covered by this report involve one worker, but workers should be prepared for disasters if they occur.
It is important that safety and health training, which is currently uneven across industries, meet a minimum standard for content and be provided by trainers who are not only industry knowledgeable but also trained in how to communicate effectively with a diverse workforce. Workers will represent different generations, different nationalities, different geographic areas, different genders, and different learning styles, and all must be provided the information they need to survive, and to prevent debilitating work-related illnesses.
As experienced workers leave the workplace and take with them the knowledge and wisdom they have gained over their careers, it is important that companies capture what they know and use it to train new generations. Research has shown that expert workers are much more credible to their young colleagues than “talking heads,” and that training provided in industry-specific language is far more effective than that using highly technical or legal language. Stories told by the master workers are excellent sources of information and can be used to keep the interest of new trainees as they learn the language, the culture, and the skills needed in their work. Capturing these stories on video and creating a virtual “wisdom library” that can be used whenever needed would be an effective strategy.
Retaining older workers is also a solid strategy. These people have a wealth of knowledge that can be used to develop younger workers. Experienced people can be used as mentors to teach people not only how to do the tasks, but why. They also understand how to do the work safely, as evidenced by their longevity, and they can provide an additional safety net for new hires as they gain the
necessary experience. An added benefit is that young workers who may leave because they have become discouraged with their assignments would have access to coaches and mentors to help them learn and develop. Older workers may opt to continue in their current jobs, and can often continue to do the work they have done, if these tasks are not too physically demanding or are redesigned to accommodate them.
Attracting nontraditional employees is another good strategy. Many of the sectors included in this study have not historically had a large percentage of nontraditional workers. (These may include employees with different national backgrounds, but the largest underrepresented group is women.) A recent report from the NIOSH Office of Mine Safety and Health Research provides details on the demographics of the mining worker population. According to the report, women make up around 7.5 percent of the current workforce, and minorities account for around 6.4 percent (McWilliams, et al., 2012). There are opportunities for industry to attract qualified workers from different demographic groups. There will be some cultural resistance to bringing women into what have been male-dominated fields, but with the increase in technology and automated operations, the traditional argument that women lack the physical strength to do the work is not always relevant.
It is apparent from discussions held with industry representatives, however, that many of the sectors face workforce shortages that are principally geographical in nature. Efforts to relocate workers from large cities with high unemployment rates to isolated areas where jobs are plentiful, for example, have not been successful in spite of the high wages offered. If this strategy is to be successful, these workers must be given much stronger social support than they have received in the past.
Many studies have shown that younger workers often expect a much better balance between work and life than their parents had. It is important that industry leaders understand this in order to attract and retain new employees.
What is becoming increasingly common is that the workforce of the future will not resemble that of the past. There are currently four recognized generations in the workforce, for example, and minorities and women are represented in increasing numbers. Supervisors and managers will need to be trained in how to lead such diversity, and this training will be quite different from what they have traditionally had. The “soft skills” not normally included in engineering and scientific degree programs should be provided to industry leaders if they are to be successful in leading diverse work teams. These skills include such things as effective communication, communicating across cultures, building multigenerational work teams, understanding adult learning styles, and motivating diverse teams. Additionally, industries are turning to safety management systems and development of safety cultures as strategies to move beyond compliance-based safety, or measuring safety solely by counting injuries and fatalities. Supervisors and managers of the future will need to be trained in those techniques. For
example, some companies have adopted a Target Zero program to promote a safety culture (the Southern Company is one example).
Training is critical for our workforce strategy. As has been consistently discussed in this report, our nation’s educational system needs to provide a workforce that is competent in the STEM-related fields. These students, whether they choose to continue their education into professional fields or to enter their careers immediately following high school graduation, will face a work environment that is far more technological than in the past, requiring skills that were unheard of 30 years ago. Employers today are reporting that new hires often lack the basic skills required, and that retention is a major problem. This situation requires remediation. Unskilled workers may lack the training needed by the energy and mining industry sectors and maybe at greater risk for occupational injury and illness.
The health and safety of the U.S. energy and extractive workforces represent both a legal and an ethical imperative. Protecting workers as they begin their careers, or as they finish them, is a common challenge faced by these industries.
The safety and health of workers are not optional. The federal oversight of job safety is increasing, and managers and supervisors who are lax in providing a safe work environment and are not insisting that safety policies and regulations be followed, are being held legally, and in some cases, criminally accountable.3 Energy and extractive industries must protect their workers from the hazards they face. The workforce of the future will be much more diverse in age, gender, background, and national origin. Supervisors and leaders must be prepared to deal with these challenges if our nation is to have the energy and minerals it needs for a vibrant economy.
6.1 The U.S. dependence on raw materials and energy is expected to continue to grow.
6.2 The workers in energy and extractive industries are at much higher risk for fatal injury than are workers in other fields as a whole.
6.3 Studies have shown that workers who have less than 1 year of experience or are over 55 years of age are more likely to be victims of occupational injury and death than are other workers.
6.4 In the “mature” industries included in this study (coal mining, metal/ nonmetal mining, oil, and gas), the worker population is increasingly bimodal, with a significant number of workers in the two high-risk
groups—those who are very young or aging. Injury and fatality rates in these industries are likely to increase as a result.
6.5 Those industries included in the study that are categorized as “emerging” (solar, wind, and geothermal) report a significant number of younger people in their workforce. This has been shown to be a high-risk group.
6.6 Mining and oil and gas, particularly, are facing significant numbers of workforce retirements, which creates the dilemma of leaving a significant gap between new hires and the experienced workers that traditionally mentor them and teach them how to do the work. Research has shown that it takes a significant number of years before a new employee can be considered as experienced or competent.
6.7 Options for maintaining an adequate number of workers in the coming years include opening these fields to nontraditional workers and foreign workers, as well as retaining older workers to both draw on their institutional and occupational wisdom and expertise and to train new workers.
6.8 Energy and extractive industries of the future will be more technologically driven than they have been historically, requiring a workforce with skills they do not currently have. A STEM-capable workforce is essential if these industries are to be viable in the next decades, and unskilled workers are at greater risk for occupational injury and illness.
The following recommendations should be initiated as quickly as possible and some will take longer than others to become fully operational. The recommendations are ordered and labeled in terms of when they would be expected to be operational. All of the recommended actions are expected to continue for the long term.
6.1 Safety and health training, which is currently uneven across industries, is best if it meets a minimum standard for content and is provided by trainers who are not only industry knowledgeable but also trained in how to communicate effectively with a diverse workforce. Where not required by mandate, companies should consider providing training to all new employees, describing common hazards and how to deal with them. (Short Term)
6.2 Undergraduate engineering programs preparing future leaders for all of these industries should include safety and health training as part of the required curriculum. (Short Term)
6.3 Companies should capture what experienced workers know before they leave the workforce, and use it to train new generations. Capturing
these stories on video and creating a virtual “wisdom library” that can be used whenever needed would be an effective strategy. (Short Term)
6.4 Retaining older workers is a solid strategy for keeping knowledge and experience in the workplace and companies could strive to retain valued older workers who can serve as trainers and mentors to younger workers. (Short Term)
6.5 Companies should reach out to attract and retain nontraditional workers. (Short Term)
6.6 To make the strategy of relocating workers to work sites successful, companies should consider giving these workers much stronger social support than they have received in the past. It is important that industry leaders understand this in order to attract and retain new employees. (Short Term)
6.7 Companies should train supervisors and managers in how to lead a diverse workforce, and this training would be quite different from what they have traditionally received. To help ensure that industry leaders will be successful in leading diverse work teams, this training would be best if the “soft skills” not normally included in engineering and scientific degree programs were provided. These skills would include such things as effective communication, communicating across cultures, building multigenerational work teams, understanding adult learning styles, and motivating diverse teams. Leadership training should also include topics such as risk management, development of safety cultures, and disaster management. (Short Term)