Later this year, scientists from the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH) will survey oil field workers in the North Dakota
and Montana Bakken, Texas and one other state, to find out what situations
imperil worker safety.
Although, statistics say a Bakken accident fatality occurs every
six weeks on average, the rate is most likely higher because OSHA excludes
certain fatalities and federal regulators don’t have an established
system for reporting oil-and-gas-related fatalities.
For this study, the largest of its kind, scientists will solicit survey
participants at man camps, community centers, training centers, equipment
and trucking yards and drilling sites in three different states.
The 500 workers who take part in the survey will remain anonymous and the
only time NIOSH will contact a company is when a worker points out a hazard
requiring immediate attention. Researchers will use a tablet to record
worker’s answers with a short private interview following to provide
There have been 76 deaths in the Bakken oil fields since 2006. From 2005
to 2009, worker fatality rate in the oil and gas industry was seven times
the rate of general industry. In this industry, accidents have a variety
of causes including exposure to unsafe levels of hydrocarbon vapors and
hydrogen sulfide gas, explosions, heat exhaustion, electrocutions and
falls while working on the rig site.
In 2014, NIOSH introduced the
Fatalities in Oil and Gas Extraction (FOG) database to better track oil and gas extraction fatalities. By speaking
directly to workers about work-related injuries and vehicle accidents,
NIOSH researchers hope go beyond statistics and get a better handle on
what factors predispose accidents occurring, such as worker fatigue and
safety issues in the Bakken oil fields.
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