Bakken Oil Field Deaths on the Rise

Oil Field Jobs: the Most Dangerous in America
Oil Field Jobs: the Most Dangerous in America

Working in the oil fields may be lucrative these days, but it is also one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

According to OSHA, 34 North Dakota workers in the oil and gas and construction industries have died because of work-related injuries since 2012. Eight of these fatalities have happened since October, marking a sharp increase and leading some to speculate that the pricing downturn is making an already dangerous job even worse.

In July, the U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA launched an enforcement program to prevent injuries and fatalities in North Dakota’s high-hazard industries. Since then, crude prices have plummeted, causing some to believe there is a connection between a rough pricing environment and more dangerous work conditions.

Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck told the Wall Street Journal, “These are the kinds of incidents that we haven’t seen in a while. With the drop in oil prices, companies may be looking to protect the profit margin by hiring contractors that are not experienced.

In order to survive the downturn, producers are forced to make tough decisions that may contribute to unsafe conditions in an industry known for 12-hour work shifts, rampant turnover and long stretches without time off.

Since the Bakken boom in 2008, thousands have flocked to North Dakota from all over the country in search of better opportunities and they have not been disappointed. The state boasts the lowest unemployment in the country and all sectors have seen wage increases including upwards of $100,000 for truckers and store clerks who can earn double the minimum wage. But the highest paid work in the oil fields definitely come with greater risk.

These industries are inherently dangerous, and workers are exposed to multiple hazards every day. Their safety must not be compromised because demand for production keeps increasing,” said Eric Brooks. “Workers are coming to these growing industries to find jobs, not catastrophic injury and preventable death. These employers have a legal responsibility to protect every employee that works for them.