UPDATE: North Dakota Named Deadliest State to Work Once Again

Oil Field Dangers Keep North Dakota at the Top of the List of Most Dangerous States to Work 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. And yet despite all of this, North Dakota consistently ranks one of the most dangerous places to work. This year, however, we took the top spot.

Inforum recently reported that North Dakota has “the most work-related fatalities per capita” of all 50 states, averaging 1.7 fatalities for every 100,000 workers, based on OSHA data. A report from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), however, puts that number even higher: nine out of every 100,000 workers. The discrepancy comes from the fact that OSHA can only report on certain types of injuries and fatalities, which means their numbers will likely skew low.

Our neighbor directly to the South was ranked the safest state, so it’s not a regional thing.

There were 34 reported work-related fatalities in North Dakota in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ten of those fatalities were related to the transportation industry, which is an improvement from five years ago. Landis Larson, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), told Inforum that the odds of workers dying from a “random” accident on a worksite is simply higher in North Dakota.

Oil field dangers keep North Dakota at the top of the list of most dangerous states to work

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 the State doesn’t like to talk about this danger, is seems:

While North Dakota’s oil boom has not helped the numbers of work-related fatalities, the state refuses to address the issue head-on, Larson said.

“It’s not one of the things we want to be known for, especially right now as we’re trying to recruit people to North Dakota to work,” he said.

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 an average of 100+ deaths a 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 701-353-2208 or fill out our contact form.