With an a job fatality rate of 14.9 per 100,000, North Dakota tops the
list with the highest fatality rate in the nation; a role it has held
the last three years.
Oil field accident fatalities in North Dakota Bakken mining and oil and gas fields totaled
84.7 per 100,000 while construction work fatalities had a rate of 44.1
In relation to the rest of the nation, North Dakota's oil field fatality
rate in 2013 was almost seven times the national rate of
12.4 per 100,000 and the construction fatality rate was over four times the
Latino and other immigrant workers have experienced significant fatalities.
11 of the 12 Latino workers who died working in the North Dakota Bakken
oil fields in 2012 were immigrants.
While investigating the 44 fatalities in the Bakken and other gas and oil
operations from October 2013 to December 31, 2014, OSHA found that fatal
work injuries involved falls, shock, being caught in or between, inhalation
and scald/burn injuries. The most common cause of death is traumatic injury
from being struck by or against tools or equipment.
Inhalation of toxic chemical fumes near oil tanks causing fatal injury
is an increasing problem in the Bakken oil fields. OSHA's inadequate
PEL (permissible exposure limits) restrict their enforcement capability
leaving workers under protected in some cases. Both OSHA and NIOSH have
reported numerous worker fatalities associated with chemical toxicity.
In 2014, OSHA published a guidance document with recommendations for reducing
flowback risks in hydraulic fracturing.
In addition to silica dust exposure as a significant health hazard in the
Bakken and other extraction processing areas, less-studied hazards include
exposure to equipment emissions containing diesel particulate and other
gases. Exposure to noise, temperature extremes, radioactive material and
heavy metals are other potential safety and health hazards for workers
in the Bakken.
Although, the oil and gas drilling industry falls under the mining industry
classification and has similar fatality rates, it is subject to OSHA rather
than the Mine Safety and Health Act. This results in weaker regulations
and oversight than comparable extractive operations.
Bakken oil and gas drilling activity is subject to OSHA general industry
and construction guidelines which fail to address the specific safety
hazards of the industry. In some cases, such as the standards for benzene
and process safety management, the gas and oil industry is exempt.
Unlike the Mine Safety and Health Act, OSHA does not require routine inspections
in the gas and oil industry. Furthermore, work sites in the Bakken and
other oil and gas extraction operations are often remote and mobile. As
a result, OSHA only performed 663 oil and gas extraction inspections in 2014.
With the high reliance on gas and oil extraction as an energy source and
the industry's propensity for work place injury, establishing enforceable
regulations equal to others in the mining industry makes good sense.
Work injuries in the Bakken region occur often. Please
contact us if your workplace injury places you and your family at risk.