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The Brutal Cost of the North Dakota Oil Boom

According to a recent report by Reveal, an online magazine published by the Center for Investigative Reporting, the lack of corporate accountability is leading to an alarming amount of death and injury to North Dakota oil rig workers. There has been a recent spike in North Dakota oil rig activity due to the Bakken Shale, a large oil reserve occupying areas of North Dakota, Manitoba, Montana, and Saskatchewan.

Their findings and analysis reveal that there have been 74 worker deaths in the Bakken since 2006—roughly 1 fatality every 6 weeks. However, certainty is difficult to attain due to the way that oil rig worker accidents are tracked. There is no way for federal regulators to currently track deaths in the oil and gas industry, particularly due to explosions. In fact, independent oil contractors are not even counted towards fatality numbers gathered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), so these estimates are low.

As a result, the actual cost in human lives as a result of the oil industry in North Dakota is not being accurately reported. In addition, OSHA is not actually holding any of the well owners accountable for their failure to meet safety standards. Currently, oil companies are offering financial incentives for speeding up production, while protecting themselves from the consequences when workers are inevitably hurt.

Using a “web of companies,” as the article puts it, oil well owners shield themselves from paying just settlements to workers and their families. Federal oversight is not helping either. In the last five years, only one well owner has been fined for worker deaths: Slawson Exploration Co. Inc., who paid a paltry $7,000 after a worker died in an explosion in 2013. With an estimate of over 7 billion barrels of crude oil still sitting undiscovered in the U.S. share of the Bakken Shale, the oil boom is not looking to slow down. Unfortunately, neither is the rising trend in worker deaths and injuries. Where there is oil, there will be dangerous shortcuts.

As OSHA continues to use layman’s resources (i.e. Wikipedia) to investigate complex accidents and employs the oil lobby’s own regulations in keeping the industry accountable, it will be up to oil rig injury attorneys like Arnold & Itkin to protect workers from the sloppy, dangerous work of North Dakota oil companies. For as long as workers need compensation and justice for their injuries, our firm will proudly protect our nation’s oil workers when they are injured by negligence or carelessness. Read the full article for more information.

If you have been injured on an oil rig in North Dakota, contact our firm. We have secured over $1 billion for our clients in the last 5 years due to our skill and experience. Call for a free case consultation.