A few years ago, Wyoming's work safety rate was one of the worst in
the nation. However, in 2012, legislators authorized spending for hiring
seven new workplace safety inspectors in a move to reduce workplace injury including
oil field injury.
OSHA does not have regulations specific for the oil and gas industry in
the Bakken and elsewhere. Rather, it regulates drilling under the General
Duty Clause which covers many industries. Indeed, oil and gas companies are
exempt from the federal safety standards for benzene and noise pollution
commonly present in the Bakken drilling sites.
Bakken safety regulation generally take place at the state level. In Wyoming
which has encountered difficulty in inspector retention, WYOSHA conducted
61 voluntary compliance exams in 2013.
Wyoming state epidemiologist, Mack Sewell feels that Wyoming's safety
efforts have improved. Meetings with the
Wyoming Oil and Gas Industry Safety Alliance and other organizations to share data on worker injury and fatalities
in the Bakken oil fields is providing helpful feedback to the participants.
However, Wyoming's inherent independent
culture and aversion to regulation is challenging for those advocating change.
For example, wearing seatbelts is often ignored and efforts to impose
higher fines for Bakken workplace accidents encounters resistance.
Today, Wyoming's fatality rate among Bakken oil and gas workers is
half of what it was a few years ago. Whether that stems from fewer drilling
rigs in Wyoming's Bakken region or real improvement remains a question.
North Dakota's fatality rate is one of the highest but it has five
times as many drilling rigs.
In December, 2014, OSHA signed a two-year
alliance with the
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the
National Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network to help prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses in the oil
and gas industry. This is a step forward in the fight to reduce hazards
and save lives in the Bakken.
Not only in the Bakken region is oil and gas safety an issue, nationally
a worker in the oil and gas industry is more than
six-times likely to die on the job than the average US worker. Please
contact us - we can help if you've had a workplace injury in the Bakken oil fields.