As an experienced
roughneck said “it's not a question of if an accident or death will occur,
but when”. He was referring to working in the Bakken oil fields.
In fact, from 2000 to 2010, Wyoming experienced the
highest workplace fatality rate of any other state with the oil gas industry responsible
for many of the deaths.
In addition to the oil fields, the associated construction workplace fatalities
are an ongoing concern accounting for
46 fatalities in 2012 and
34 in 2013 in the North Dakota Bakken. Oil field and construction fatalities
include falls, burns, electrocution, blunt force trauma, hydrogen sulfide
gas exposure, and cave-ins.
In the Bakken, non-fatal injuries from lack of training, neglect and overuse
are frequent. For example, hand and upper extremity injuries such as carpal tunnel,
trigger finger, joint problems and fractures are common problems. In 2013, there were
3200 oil field injuries reported in North Dakota, up from 700 in 2009.
In a special report on the dangers of the Bakken,
KTVQ.com news highlighted the impact of oil field injuries on workers and their
families. In 2010, Gary Roberts was cleaning a pipe with a flammable solvent
near a coworker heating the pipe with a propane torch. Unaware of the
danger, the resulting fire quickly spread causing severe burns to his
hands, legs, neck, vocal cords and face.
The paramedics who took him to the hospital thought his injuries were fatal
and it was surprising for them to learn of his survival when lawsuit papers
began arriving. Since the Bakken accident, Roberts has undergone a series
of surgeries to repair the burn sites. In 2013, the court awarded Roberts
a multi-million dollar settlement for his injuries citing a lack of proper
training and safety equipment.
With the cost of his surgeries in the millions, Roberts is facing more
operations to improve his breathing; his hands are severely damaged and
he is permanently disabled. Roberts feels that his experience in the Bakken
oil fields is preventable as long as workers and companies follow the
rules and improve safety enforcement.
Workplace safety in the Bakken is a joint responsibility of companies and
field workers and the costs of non-compliance are high. Please
contact us for assistance if you have experienced workplace injury in the Bakken.