New Study Will Look At Oil And Gas Field Hazards In The Bakken

Later this year, scientists from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will survey oil field workers in the North Dakota and Montana Bakken, Texas and one other state, to find out what situations imperil worker safety.

Although, statistics say a Bakken accident fatality occurs every six weeks on average, the rate is most likely higher because OSHA excludes certain fatalities and federal regulators don’t have an established system for reporting oil-and-gas-related fatalities.

For this study, the largest of its kind, scientists will solicit survey participants at man camps, community centers, training centers, equipment and trucking yards and drilling sites in three different states.

The 500 workers who take part in the survey will remain anonymous and the only time NIOSH will contact a company is when a worker points out a hazard requiring immediate attention. Researchers will use a tablet to record worker’s answers with a short private interview following to provide more background.

There have been 76 deaths in the Bakken oil fields since 2006. From 2005 to 2009, worker fatality rate in the oil and gas industry was seven times the rate of general industry. In this industry, accidents have a variety of causes including exposure to unsafe levels of hydrocarbon vapors and hydrogen sulfide gas, explosions, heat exhaustion, electrocutions and falls while working on the rig site.

In 2014, NIOSH introduced the Fatalities in Oil and Gas Extraction (FOG) database to better track oil and gas extraction fatalities. By speaking directly to workers about work-related injuries and vehicle accidents, NIOSH researchers hope go beyond statistics and get a better handle on what factors predispose accidents occurring, such as worker fatigue and safety issues in the Bakken oil fields.

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