Although other injuries occur more frequently, burn injuries among Bakken
oil field workers in North Dakota have swelled to 3,100 in the last five
years. Of all workplace injuries, burn injury is one of the most painful
and most expensive; burn unit treatment can cost $1 million.
Bakken burn victims treated at
Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota often require ventilators and have burns
three to four times larger than the average patient. Moving patients takes
extra time yet critical care in the first day makes a big difference in
patient's recovery. Even with the high flammability of Bakken crude
and the higher potential for burn injury, North Dakota lacks specialized
In January, an oil service company owner died and an employee suffered
serious burn injury when fluids ignited during a repair of a well heater
in the Bakken oil field of North Dakota.
Last November, an oil field worker burnt in a Bakken region in Montana
settled with an oil drilling company claiming negligence from lack of
propane gas odorization. The construction worker suffered burns over
68% of his body after lighting a cigar near an undetected propane leak.
Following guidelines set up by OSHA helps minimize burn injuries to Bakken
oil field workers. For instance supervisors should communicate that gas
leak detection is difficult with odorless and colorless gas.
Companies need to train workers on safe operating procedures for equipment
used in Bakken oil drilling. In flow back operations, training with verification
should cover the startup and shutdown process, normal operations and emergency
procedures which include site alarms.
Workers should employ personal and fixed LEL monitors that undergo routine
testing and maintenance. When workers face possible exposure to flash
fire hazards, frequent in Bakken drilling operations, their employer must
require them to wear company-furnished flame resistant attire. Workers
should conduct welding and other heat or ignition-producing activities
outside of flow back areas.
In the Bakken oil fields, flammable atmospheres are a common hazard especially during
flow back operations. Discharges to tanks, tanker trucks, oil and gas separators,
flares, pits and sand separators can contain high amounts of flammable
gases or liquids. Cigarettes, static charges, engines, cell phones, radios
and other devices can all cause ignition and require special handling.
Workplace injuries such as burns are more likely under hazardous conditions
in the Bakken. Please
contact us for help if you have suffered a work-related injury.