According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), more than 38 workers have lost their lives in oil-field accidents during the period between October 2014 and February 2015, eight of whom were working on North Dakota oil fields at the time. This statistic is alarming, particularly considering that it does not include car accidents, which are typically responsible for about 50 percent of fatalities in the industry.
What is also frightening is that the WSJ reports the most recent workplace fatality rate (2012) for the state of North Dakota to be 17.7 fatalities per each 100,000 workers, already fives time worse than the national average before this recent rash of deaths.
The Dangers and Risks of Oil Extraction
Although many factors may have contributed to the increase of deaths on the oil derricks, OSHA believes cost-cutting efforts, as well as the hiring of inexperienced workers, may be partially to blame as oil companies try to reduce costs to compensate for crashing crude oil prices. Companies that do not have adequate worker safety measures in place, or that fail to supervise and enforce these measures, are putting workers at risk.
OSHA states that common dangers, risks and safety hazards associated with the oil and gas extraction industry include:
- Vehicle-related crashes
- Explosions and fires
- Being struck by an object
- Being caught in or in-between and object or piece of equipment
- Entering a confined space
- High pressure lines and equipment
- Electrical, hydraulic or mechanical hazards
- Injuries associated with large equipment or machinery
Policing oil fields and derricks for potential hazards is not always possible, as OSHA’s policing capabilities are extremely limited, according to the WSJ. The agency has not added any additional inspectors since the North Dakota oil boom began.
The Tragedy and Expense Surrounding Oil Field Accidents
The loss of human life surrounding oil field accidents is immense, as are the other medical consequences of drilling in the Bakken Shale. A recent report from Aljazeera America revealed that emergency room visits have increased from 15 patients over the course of one month to 31 patients in a single shift. Almost every day, oil field trauma victims are treated in emergency rooms. Their injuries include broken bones, lacerations, loss of a finger or toe and other injuries. Society bears many of those medical expenses. In the last year alone, one local hospital lost $1.5 million in unpaid bills, much of which could be attributed to oil field workers who were uninsured or underinsured.
In what many consider the worst oil derrick accident since the Bakken oil field boom began, a 21-year-old man lost his life when he was killed in an explosion on his first day of work on a rig. Another worker was so badly burned that he succumbed to his injuries the following day. A third worker suffered injuries which required the lower part of both legs be amputated. Although he survived, the post-traumatic stress he suffered from the accident is believed to have been the cause of him taking his own life close to two years later. A fourth victim sustained third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body, which has left him disabled, but Reveal News reports he is the sole survivor of that tragic day.
What is equally heartbreaking is the continuous reports that the companies have allegedly failed to make adequate changes or pay for mistakes made, despite the increase in fatal accidents on oil fields and derricks. Earlier this year, Bakken Today reported that one company was being fined $97 thousand for a single oil field death, as a result of its “willful” violation and failure to make sure a water hauling vacuum tank had been adequately cleaned before welding begun. This is just one of the violations for which the company has apparently been fined.
How Our Firm Is Equipped to Help
With this rise in oil field deaths, it is important that victims and their families know where to turn. The attorneys at Larson Law Firm, P.C. are equipped and have the experience to represent these types of cases. We have been aggressive advocates for victims’ rights for more than three decades, and we have a record of success. We have handled many complex cases involving injuries and deaths sustained by oil field workers.
We have seen the devastation oil field accidents can cause, and we are committed to helping surviving family members pursue the compensation they may be eligible to receive, particularly when negligence causes a preventable death.
To find out what we can do for you, contact our firm to schedule your free case evaluation today.
- The Wall Street Journal: Oil Deaths Rise as Bakken Boom Fades
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Safety Hazards Associated with Oil and Gas Extraction Activities
- Aljazeera America: Oil industry accidents put North Dakota hospital $1.5 million in debt
- Reveal News: In North Dakota’s Bakken oil boom, there will be blood
- Bakken Today: Company faces $97K fine over oilfield death. Failure to clean water-hauling before welding led to deadly explosion, investigators say