US oilfield deaths rise sharply

SNYDER, Texas (AP) -- The death toll among those working in the nation's oil and gas fields has been climbing rapidly.

The Associated Press has found that at least 598 workers have died on the job between 2002 and last year. During that time period, the number of annual deaths rose by around 70 percent.

The number of people working in U.S. oil and gas fields has been soaring since the drilling boom started at the beginning of the decade. But that alone doesn't seem to explain the rising death toll. The number of deaths compared to the number of workers has also risen during the first half of the decade.

Experts blame several factors for the rise. Among them are increased drilling, inexperience, and drug and alcohol use among workers. Some workers turn to methamphetamine to get through 12-hour shifts, and work up to 14 days in a row.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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