Workplace Deaths Down in North Dakota Oil Patch

January 15, 2016

The number of work-related deaths in the North Dakota oil patch in 2015 dropped from the previous year.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration data show three such fatalities last year, down from seven in 2014 and 10 in 2013.

Eric Brooks, director of OSHA’s Bismarck Area Office, told The Bismarck Tribune that it’s unclear whether drop is due to better safety or fewer workers. He said he expects to have a better idea of the reason behind the decline a year from now.

North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance Director Bryan Klipfel said that as the workforce has declined in the oil patch due to the industry downturn, that agency has seen a corresponding drop in the number of injured worker claims.

“There are fewer workers, so there are proportionally fewer injuries,” Klipfel said in a news release. “And workers with more experience are usually the last ones cut from job sites, so, from that standpoint, the safety environment is stronger.”

Safety experts are hoping the decrease is due to their efforts. North Dakota Safety Council CEO Chuck Clairmont said that despite the decrease in oil activity, safety trainings haven’t dropped.

The council’s trainings have gone up 15 to 20 percent annually for the past seven years, including 2015. Supervisory training for those who run work sites but may not be directly in charge of safety programming is growing in popularity, Clairmont said.

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