The Elevated Risk Of Fire-Related Work Accidents At Bakken Oil And Gas Drilling Sites

The risk for work accidents from explosions and fires is higher in the Bakken where oil and gas drilling occurs. When oil and gas extraction began, many fire departments were not acquainted with the activities taking place at drilling sites. Often fire response agencies, functioning with volunteers, lacked experience dealing with concentrated flammable materials. In addition, there was frequently a shortage of water fighting equipment.

Energy Wire writes that compared to other industry, the oil and gas industry as a whole accounts for more fire and explosion fatalities. The industry is responsible for 10% of workplace fire and explosion fatalities despite employing less than 1% of the workforce. In 2013 there were ten such fatalities. Flash fires and explosions are responsible for 20-75% of well site accidents

While OSHA lacks a set of standards that is specific to the gas and oil drilling industry, it does regulate it under its General Duty Clause applying to many industries. The American Petroleum Institute is the default organization that sets the safety standard adopted by most states and many federal agencies.

Currently, OSHA standards for preventing fires and fire-related injuries cover delineating exit routes and creating fire prevention and emergency response plans. OSHA also mandates worker access to flame-resistant clothing and storage of flammable liquids but has no guidelines for the industry on the required response in case of fire.

What happens is the local fire department shoulders the burden when an emergency occurs. Dealing with fires at Bakken drilling sites is complex especially when there are multiple storage tanks and wellheads on location. Besides flammable biocides and acids, fracking fluid is extremely flammable with plenty of ignition sources spread around a site sometimes found in a remote location with limited access to water and foam.

When you sustain injury from a workplace accident, you could be entitled to recover workers’ compensation. The coverage can help you pay for medical expenses, rehabilitation, lost wages or potential wages, and pain and suffering. Please contact us for help when dealing with a Bakken-related work injury.