North Dakota experienced a huge population growth early in the 20th century as immigrants moved west to take advantage of the abundant farmland the state had to offer. However, North Dakota's population plateaued around the middle of the 1900's and began to decline throughout much of the late 20th century. It wasn't until the mid-2000's that North Dakota would again see a boom in population. This time it had nothing to do with farming; oil is responsible for the current population boom in North Dakota.
Western North Dakota is home to the Bakken shale, the nation's second largest shale play. At its peak, it produces over one million barrels of oil per day. The recent boom in hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) made drilling on the Bakken shale much more feasible economically. As a result, oil companies and workers flocked to western North Dakota to take advantage of the opportunity.
North Dakota Oil Field Jobs Are Dangerous
While jobs have been widely available on the Bakken over the last decade, they have not come without cost. In fact, North Dakota was recently named one of the country's most dangerous states to work in – largely because the state's workplace fatality rate is so heavily influenced by the oil fields on the Bakken shale. By 2015, the states worker fatality rate had risen to 17.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers. That figure is five times the national average.
According to OSHA, from October 2014 to February 2015 (the first five months of its fiscal year), 38 oil field workers had died nationwide with eight of those occurring in North Dakota. Those eight fatalities were more than the previous 12 months combined.
What Is Causing the Deaths?
While it is true that oil field work is inherently dangerous, there are measures that can be put in place to help protect workers. According to safety experts, there are several factors contributing to the high number of oil field fatalities in North Dakota.
- Overworked employees. Workers often work 12 hour shifts for as many as three weeks in a row.
- Multiple contractors. Many oil fields have several different companies and contractors working on the same site. A lack of communication between the companies leads to more accidents.
- Fewer state restrictions. North Dakota is known to have fewer state restrictions, one reason oil companies have flocked to the state.
- Lack of safety inspections. OSHA has just eight inspectors covering a 150,000 square mile territory. That is the same number of inspectors in the state prior to the fracking boom.
Arnold & Itkin Represents North Dakota Oil Field Workers
Our firm is based in Houston, Texas, but we represent injured oil field workers all over the country, including North Dakota. In fact, many of the companies operating in the Bakken shale are also headquartered in Houston or other parts of Texas. If you have been injured while working on a North Dakota oil field, you need to make sure your rights are protected. Our firm has recovered over $1 billion for our clients in the last five years alone. Call us today for a free consultation about your legal rights.