Workplace Injury in the Bakken Oil Fields

“The Bakken is the most dangerous oil field to work in the U.S.” That simple statement, spoken after a 2014 accident near the Missouri River in which one oil rig worker was killed and two others severely injured, is amply borne out not only by specific accidents, but by statistics. Gas and oilfield-related deaths in the Bakken, for example, have risen sharply in the last four years, from six in 2011 to 15 in 2012, 14 in 2013, and 12 in 2014, the last year for which complete statistics are available. In other words, averaged over the last three years, a worker has lost his life in the Bakken at a rate of more than one a month.

The danger of the Bakken is caused by a number of factors. The high wages paid by the oil companies have drawn an enormous number of workers to the region who, because of the pressure to produce oil and gas quickly, are often inadequately trained. Demand for oil creates pressures to produce at top speed; workers often receive bonuses to produce as fast as they can, often without proper safety precautions. In the 2014 accident, for example, the workers had not been provided with flame-resistant clothing or an emergency escape route—actions for which an oil company was later fined. In addition, the accident was caused by pressure in the well, which one observer believes could have been fixed—the wells killed—for just $1500.

Workplace safety in the Bakken is a shared responsibility of companies and field workers. The costs of non-compliance are steep. Please contact us for assistance if you have experienced workplace injury in the Bakken.