Every Year, North Dakota Gets Deadlier for Workers

Work-Related Deaths in North DakotaFor the past few years, North Dakota has been named one of the deadliest places for workers in the country. We were #1 in 2021, and it appears we were #1 in 2022, as well.

Per Inforum, there were about 417,000 workers in North Dakota in 2022, and the worker fatality rate that year remained at nine out of every 100,000 workers. Nationally, the average worker fatality rate is about 3.7 out of every 100,000 workers, so our fatality rate is still substantially higher. More North Dakota workers died in 2022 than in 2021or 2020, so the number itself is also rising.

Per their data, the leading causes of worker deaths were caused by/related to:

  • Transportation (35%)
  • Contact with objects or heavy equipment (22%)
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments (19%)

The truth is, though, that worker deaths are up all across the board. Our fatality rate may be higher, but almost every state saw an increased number of work-related fatalities in 2022. Inforum says it was the deadliest year for American workers since 2011.

Read more: UPDATE: North Dakota Named Deadliest State to Work Once Again

Why is North Dakota such a deadly place for workers?

We do a lot of jobs that other folks can’t or won’t, and some of that work is inherently dangerous.

North Dakota lists the following industries on the official government website:

  • Food & Agriculture
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Autonomous Systems
  • Information Technology
  • Tourism
  • Advanced Manufacturing

The rest of the country may think of us as oil & gas, sugar beets and canola oil, but the truth is that North Dakota’s wide-open terrain has made it an excellent stomping ground for everything form drone production to chip manufacturing to the building of heavy machinery that’s transported throughout the country. We mine and grow resources and we build things here, and that means workers are likely to come in “contact with objects of heavy equipment,” and you’re like to face “exposure to harmful substances or environments.” What you mine, refine, and build has to be shipped out, too, which means there’s always a risk of “transportation” accident.

The point is, the drivers of our economy – agriculture, manufacturing, excavation and refinery, research and development – can be deadly enough, and our workforce knows it. So when someone acts negligently, it creates a much bigger risk of harm.

What does worker negligence look like?

Folks make honest mistakes at work all the time, and sometimes those mistakes are deadly. But often, it’s negligence that leads to truly catastrophic and fatal injuries.

Let’s look at those transportation accidents again. There’s no granular breakdown of the data, but we’ve been helping folks injured in crashes for a long time, and there are some things we know:

  1. Truckers work long hours, often during odd hours, and get pushed to complete their runs in all sorts of weather. Many get paid by the mile, so they want to get as many miles in as possible, which means doing as many runs as possible.
  2. North Dakota’s roads are designed for speed – open, straight, and muti-laned – but our terrain isn’t safe for speeding. Between the unpaved roads and the sloughs, it’s easy to spin out into a ditch.
  3. For a state covering more than 70k square miles, almost half of our hospitals are located in one city: Fargo. If a driver is catastrophically injured out on Highway 21 near Mott, or on Highway 8 virtually anywhere, there’s a good chance he or she is being airlifted to a hospital – assuming that driver manages to call 9-1-1.

A driver who speeds or gets distracted, or who is drunk behind the wheel (we’re #4 when it comes to drinking in general) – that driver is being reckless, and reckless behavior out here can kill.

Of course, a lot of these same behaviors can be deadly even when there’s no vehicle involved. Worker negligence can include:

  • Bering drunk or high on the job
  • Being distracted by a phone instead of paying attention to heavy machinery, or looking out for fellow workers
  • Failing/refusing to put on proper safety equipment
  • Rushing around to get a job done so everyone can leave work early
  • Failing to pack away any tools or materials when not in use, creating trip and fall hazards
  • Fooling around on powered machines like pallet jacks
  • Failing to store dangerous chemicals properly and out of reach

Each one of these actions can get a worker killed.

What options do you have if your loved one is killed on the job in ND?

In some instances, there may be workers’ comp available. Our law firm represents workers and families for whom that is not an option – and you might be surprised how often that’s the case. If your loved one died on a worksite, you may be able to file a lawsuit. Typically, that means filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent worker, the owner of the company which employer the negligent worker (assuming it’s not your own, of course), and/or the property owner. In some cases, it may mean filing a defective product lawsuit against a manufacturer, designer, or even retailer.

As North Dakota natives, we take these worker fatality rates seriously and personally: our loved ones are out there doing dangerous work every day. We know what your rights are if your spouse, parent, or child dies while on the job, and we can guide you through those options so you can focus on healing. To schedule a free consultation, call or contact Larson Law Firm, P.C. today. We have offices in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, so a lawyer you can trust is always nearby when you need one.