If It's Predictable, It's Preventable: Niosh's Role In Reducing Oil Field Injuries & Fatalities On The Bakken

You've most likely heard of The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, better known by its acronym NIOSH. You may even possess one or more pieces of safety gear labeled to show compliance with a NIOSH standard. But, do we really understand who they are and what they do? How does this division of the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) improve worker safety on the Bakken?

NIOSH strives to fulfill their mission which is simply stated yet complex in actuality:

To develop new knowledge in the field of occupational safety and health and to transfer that knowledge into practice (NIOSH).

NIOSH researchers analyze accident and fatality data, and conduct direct research such as surveys, to understand how workers are injured and killed on the job. Once the causes are known, NIOSH develops strategies to prevent future harmful incidents.

Other agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the US Bureau of Mines, work in partnership with NIOSH to educate and train America's workforce. NIOSH is not a regulatory or enforcement agency. Rather, NIOSH standards - once incorporated into OSHA rules - become enforceable by that agency (OSHA).

The Oil and Gas Extraction Safety and Health Program (Oil & Gas) is one of NIOSH's Sector Programs. One of the emerging issues they've identified promises to improve worker safety on the Bakken:

There is a need to quantify the safety and health hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing (NIOSH).

It's important to note that NIOSH researchers are not starting from scratch - they already have data and programs in place for the oil and gas industry overall to build upon. One of their resources is the Fatalities in Oil and Gas Extraction (FOG) database. This database contains detailed information regarding fatal injuries in the oil and gas industry, including those on the Bakken. NIOSH sums up how this data helps improve oil field safety in the FOG Overview:

FOG data are used to inform NIOSH, industry, and other stakeholder groups, and guide interventions that will prevent future loss of life in this industry (NIOSH).

A timeline of NIOSH programs and activities shows how they use data to develop training and educational products to reduce injuries. Analysts study past incidents to predict and prevent future mishaps.

The most recent programs target the top identified causes of oil and gas extraction industry worker injuries and fatalities. Best practices for motor vehicles, preventing fires & explosions, chemical exposures, and fall prevention are among their most current Oil & Gas projects.

Given the multitude of hazards faced by workers on the Bakken, it's good to know that NIOSH is working to reduce oil field worker injury. Our firm can help you understand the complex standards and rules that exist for your protection.

If you or someone you know suffered a work-related injury and need help navigating the recovery process, please contact us.