Earlier this year we reported on the harrowing statistics surrounding the oil and gas extraction industry in North Dakota, and how workers seem to be required to take their lives in their hands to do their work. We questioned whether safety was a priority because of all the tragic reports of serious injuries and deaths. What are the consequences of these workplace fatalities and injuries?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), has rules and regulations governing workplace safety. If a worker is injured, or if there is some kind of accident, OSHA is the agency which investigates what happened.
An example of when OSHA might come to call
In February 2018, a 23-year-old man named Jared Rizzo was on a workover rig, about 20 miles or so away from Williston at a well owned by Whiting Oil and Gas Corp. A traveling block came loose from the rig somehow, and it fell on Mr. Rizzo. The resulting injuries led to his death. The incident happened on a Thursday, and Friday morning, an OSHA representative was at the well site to begin an investigation. The Bismarck Tribune reports that the last time OSHA investigated an oilfield fatality in North Dakota was in January 2017.
Your employer’s responsibility after an accident
2015, OSHA revised its reporting requirements for serious workplace injuries and fatalities (CFR 1904.39) and they have been in effect since 2015. Employers must:
- Report the death of an employee from a workplace-related accident within 8 hours, including fatalities which occur within 30 days of a work-related incident.
- Report the in-hospitalization of an employee with a work-related injury within 24 hours.
- Report work-related amputations within 24-hours.
- Report any work-related loss of an eye.
Employers can report an injury or fatality by phone to the OSHA office nearest them. There is an OSHA area office in Bismarck, ND. There is also to option to report the incident electronically through OSHA’s website.
After the incident is reported
Once the incident has been reported, OSHA may begin its investigation with an inspection. There is also the option of a Rapid Response Investigation (RRI), which is a new process wherein the employer conducts his or her own incident investigation and submits the result to OSHA. After the RRI, OSHA may follow up with an inspection to make sure that any safety hazards uncovered in the investigation have been mitigated.
Employers owe a duty of care to their employees to provide a safe work environment. Workers are not required to risk their lives for a day’s pay. Oilfield accidents are often serious and far too often deadly. The oil and gas extraction industry must make serious improvements in developing a culture of safety so that our economy does not need to pay in blood for domestic energy production. The industry has made grate strides, but it needs to go much further.
At Larson Law Firm, P.C., our North Dakota oil field injury lawyers are strong advocates in court and in the negotiation process. We want to help. To learn more about our services, please contact our Minot office at 701-484-4878, or complete out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson