Work Accidents in Bakken Region Trigger Concerns

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 entails. Says 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.

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