Working Near Oil Derricks During Storms Can Prove Deadly If you work in the North Dakota oil fields, then you know the risks you take each and every time you head out to work. Working around large, powerful equipment requires a level of skill and attentiveness, even in the best of weather. The equipment isn’t the only thing you have to remain aware of to stay safe.

Storms coming through can create a substantial risk to workers who can fall victim to oil field accidents as well. Lightening, high winds, and tornadoes are all threatening and can quickly result in serious injury or death if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

North Dakota weather can be brutal

Being landlocked, North Dakota doesn’t experience hurricanes the way coastal communities do, but the state still has storms with devastating hurricane-force winds. In mid-January just such a storm emerged when warm temperatures helped create conditions just right for the gusts of 93 miles per hour that destroyed entire buildings.

Because of its drastically fluctuating temperatures, the state experiences severe weather in the form of tornadoes, which bring large, golf ball-sized hail in addition to strong winds. In the last three years alone there have been 77 documented tornadoes across North Dakota, and in fact, Bismarck is at the northern tip of the Great Plains Tornado Alley.

The oil camp tornado of 2014

What if a storm or tornado comes on too fast that I’m caught unprepared? That’s exactly what happened on Memorial Day weekend in 2014 when an oil camp was left with nine injured after a tornado ripped through the area. The tornado appeared so quickly that nobody had time to find safe shelter and instead they bunkered down in trailers.

The North Dakota oil boom brought thousands to the area in search of work, leaving them to live in less secure structures such as trailers, tents and vehicles that offer no real shelter from the very real danger of the region’s tornadic activity.

The dangers of oil derricks during a severe storm

A sudden storm can turn deadly or result in catastrophic injuries. Heavy wind, rain and other weather events can cause:

  • Unsecured equipment or tools around the oil patch can be catapulted toward you at high speeds, resulting in anything from severe bruises to gashes, broken bones, being knocked unconscious, or being killed.
  • Objects on the derrick can be pushed loose and fall onto a worker below causing crushing injuries.
  • Workers can slip and fall off the derrick even if they are properly tied in due to losing footing from rain-slick surfaces or being knocked off balance from high wind. Breaking an arm or leg would be the least of your problems if you strike your head and end up with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Electrocution if you’re touching the metal derrick when lightning strikes the equipment.
  • Severe welts and abrasions from being pelted with oversized hail. Couple that with the long hours and unsanitary conditions of working in oil patches and infection can set in without much effort.

Even after a storm is over it’s important that derricks be inspected for structural integrity issues per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Their guidelines pay particular attention to:

  • Electrical wires that could have suffered damage making them a bigger electrocution hazard than lightning strikes.
  • Stands and ladders that could have become compromised after being struck by debris or thrown around.
  • Condition of both the derrick frame and substructure, including climb assist devices and guardrails.
  • The emergency escape line being intact, and that rods and other parts of the derrick are secure.

Choosing to work in oil patches comes with a lot of risk for the reward and oil and gas companies have a responsibility to ensure their equipment is sound after every storm and that workers are afforded every safety measure reasonably available while doing their jobs.

If you or a loved one is an oil worker who was injured doing your job, speak with the professionals at the Minot oil field accident lawyers at Larson Law Firm, P.C. Having the right legal advice gives you the power to safeguard yourself and your family from expensive and avoidable injuries. Start by calling  701-484-HURT to schedule your free consultation in our Minot or Bismarck offices, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.