With constantly evolving federal and state regulations, polarizing opinion
both for and against new fossil fuel drilling methods, and an influx of
inexperienced workers, it's no wonder North Dakota ranks
highest in the world for workplace deaths. Both government and employers are constantly seeking new ways to improve
overall safety systems and keep workers safely on the job.
Inherently Dangerous Work
Certainly, working the Bakken oil field is dangerous. The extracted fuels
are highly flammable and noxious. The processes used to remove these fuels
are complex; increasing demand puts added performance pressure on every
shift, and many workers come to the job completely ignorant of what it
Eric Brooks, the Bismarck ND area director for OSHA: “Workers are coming to these growing industries to find jobs, not
catastrophic injury and preventable death. These employers have a legal
responsibility to protect every employee that works for them.” The
high incidence of
work accidents underscores the risks these workers assume every day.
Construction Contributes to the Problem
The Bakken oil field technician is not the only employee facing risks,
either. The recent national recession stimulated an influx of workers
into the Bakken field area, and it's been booming all along, regardless
of downward trends in other industries. All those workers need places
to live, so housing construction has been as big an industry as the oil
business. These incoming construction workers are not necessarily trained
in the building trades either, so they are as vulnerable to serious, sometimes
fatal, injuries, as are their flammable-gas wrangling oil field counterparts.
Construction accidents account for a significant percentage of injuries
in the Bakken field area. In fact, of the
34 fatalities in North Dakota in 2014, 13 were directly associated with
the construction industry. Other infrastructure is also being added or rebuilt, adding to construction
injury risks. Pipelines carry a significant percentage of fuel off the
site, and need constant assessment to prevent leaks or failures. Rail
cars have been redesigned for petroleum transport, but even the new ones
have experienced catastrophic failure.
There are fortunes to be made in the Bakken oil field region. For workers,
the trick is to stay safe, healthy and alive while seeking them.
Contact us for information regarding workers rights or employers obligations.