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Montana man killed in oil field accident

The oil fields of the Bakken Shale have provided good-paying jobs for a lot of Montana workers. But those jobs have come with a downside, as many oil field work accident victims and their families can testify. Oil field work is hazardous and unforgiving. And sometimes it can be fatal. The latest death occurred recently at a well in Toole County, north of Kevin, Montana.

The victim, a 20-year-old man from Sunburst, was working with another crew member when the accident happened. The two workers were using a wheel wrench to turn a wheel on a wellhead when the wrench broke. A piece of the wrench flew off and struck the victim in the chest. He was taken to a hospital in Shelby, but doctors were unable to save him and he died. The cause of death was listed as blunt-force trauma.

As required by law, the man's employer reported the incident to OSHA. An OSHA safety and health officer was reported to have gone to the accident scene; there will undoubtedly be an OSHA investigation of this incident since a fatality was involved. OSHA will make a determination whether unsafe working conditions contributed to the accident.

When a worker is killed in an oil field accident, his or her family is entitled to collect workers' compensation death benefits from the employer. These benefits will provide some financial compensation to the family for their loss. In the event that a defective piece of equipment caused the accident, the family will have the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the equipment manufacturer. In such a lawsuit, the family can recover additional damages that would not be recoverable under workers' compensation.

Source: Billings Gazette, "Coroner names Sunburst man killed in oilfield accident," June 21, 2013

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