The extraction of oil from the Bakken Formation, which runs under Montana and North Dakota, has brought an economic boom to those regions. But the boom has come with a price, as injured workers and the families of workers killed on the job can attest. The recent death of a 49-year-old Minnesota man in an oil field accident in North Dakota provides more evidence of the hazardous nature of oil field work.
The victim was working on a fracking operation when the accident happened. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process by which oil buried deep in the earth is extracted by pumping sand and fluid into the ground at high pressure. The victim in this case was pumping high-pressure fluid when the fatal accident happened.
The exact circumstances of the accident are unclear. One news report states that a valve was turned the wrong way, and a pipe got loose and struck the man in the head, killing him instantly. Another report indicates that high pressure caused a piece of equipment to come loose, and that it struck the man in the chest and abdomen. An OSHA investigation has been commenced, which should determine the exact cause of the accident.
A second worker was taken to the hospital with injuries that are reported to be minor.
Montana workers who are injured on the job, and the families of those who are killed, are entitled to collect workers' compensation benefits under state law. Death benefits help a family deal with the financial impact of losing a provider. If the negligence of a party other than the workers' employer - such as another contractor working at the site or the manufacturer of defective equipment - contributed to the accident, the claimant may also be entitled to bring a civil lawsuit against that party. In a civil lawsuit, the claim is not subject to the statutory benefit limits of under the workers' compensation law.
Source: Bakken Today, "Minnesota man killed in fracking accident in The Oil Patch," Amy Dalrymple and Peter Passi, Jan. 23, 2013