OSHA, Department of Labor, the IHSA. These groups and others exist to protect US workers on the job, making rules and laws about how to keep employees safe in workplaces across the country. In the US in 2014 (the latest year data is available) 4,836 people died in the workplace. 47 of those, or about 10%, were in North Dakota, the fourth smallest state in the union, by population. It is not hard to find a culprit for the deadly state of the North Dakota workplace; the oil fields and associated industries that have brought jobs and money have also brought life-threatening risks to workers. But does this oil boom require blood?
Is the safety of oil field workers a priority?
The news is full of stories of tragic oil field accidents and deaths. Whether it is machinery accidents, heart failure from toxic hydrocarbon fumes, explosions at oil and gas facilities, or transportation injuries, there is no question that oil field workers face risks every day. However, other professions carry similarly serious risks, without leading to the fatality rates seen in oil field workers. The job most likely to result in employee injury? Nursing home and residential care worker. Very few of these employees are fatally injured on the job, despite the high risk to personal safety. This may simply mean that every mistake made in the oil field is potentially fatal, and that there are no “safe” injuries in this line of work. Other potential reasons offered include the lack of training and experience for new workers, or a reduction in on-the-ground inspections from OSHA. Regardless of the reasons, the results are clear: North Dakota oil field workers die on the job, and that has not changed in a decade.
The types of non-fatal injuries incurred by oil field workers also give plain evidence of the seriousness of the job hazards. While the most common work-related injuries in the US include sprains, strains, and tears, common work related injuries for oil field workers are more grave: flash fire burns and respiratory injuries, limb amputations, vehicle accidents leading to broken bones and trauma, as well as extensive mental and emotional issues such as PTSD.
Simple steps can help protect workers
It is nearly unthinkable in this day and age that an essential industry like the energy industry is still dogged by these workplace safety issues leading to over 100 deaths per year, and with an equally substantial number of grave injuries. Improvements are not impossible; safety efforts are not prohibitively expensive. Guardrails, lifelines, evacuation plans for emergencies – the solutions are simple and proven. If a company truly values its workers, then adoption of these protocols and tools will not be the exception, but the rule.
Whether by accident or negligence, oil field accidents and deaths are tragic for all involved. At Larson Law Firm, P.C., we want to help your family when another party’s careless and irresponsible actions have led to injury or loss. Take legal action now and reach out to a North Dakota oil field accident attorney at 701-484-4878 or fill out our contact form.