Eye Damage: A Common yet Preventable Bakken Workplace Injury

The human eye is a fragile organ that's exposed to the external environment. Because of this, most workers in the Bakken field risk a serious workplace injury and even blindness when they fail to wear eye protection. The consequences of losing one's vision will last for life. These include diminished employment opportunities and quality of life. These hardships are easily prevented by consistent use of eye protection.

According to OSHA:

"The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation."

This means the employer should actively watch for workers not wearing eye protection, and either provide them with protection or take them out of the eye hazard area. Eye hazards common to the Bakken field include:

Mechanical Projectiles and Irritants

Power tools, machine tools, and manual tools such as hammers and chisels can propel pieces of metal, wood, stone, and other materials at high speed toward the eyes. Shrapnel from explosions and bursting pipes is another eye hazard. Dust, sand, sintered bauxite, ceramics, and other proppant materials cause eye irritation.


Acids such as hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, citric, acetic, formic, and thioglycolic acid, as well as various bases, can cause chemical burns or irritate the eyes. Other chemicals used for stabilizing clay such as choline chloride and tetramethyl ammonium chloride are hazardous to the eyes. Chemicals that can be splashed on the eyes require goggles that form a seal to prevent entry by dripping.

Hot Molten Materials and Sparks

These are primarily caused by metal-cutting and other metal working tools. Common tools used for metal-cutting are torches and diamond tipped cutting wheels. Both tool types emit showers of either molten metal or hot sparks.

Ultraviolet Radiation

Arc welding is a commonly used method for joining metal together. It uses electricity to generate intense heat that bonds metal. In the process, it produces intense ultraviolet radiation and sparks that are damaging to the eyes at close range. This requires special eye and face protection.

Failure to ensure that all workers exposed to the above and other eye hazards common to the Bakken field (as required by OSHA) can cause serious and even irreversible eye injury. If you suffered a debilitating eye injury while working in the Bakken oil field, contact us for legal advice.