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Unsafe working conditions lead to injuries in oil fields

In Montana and other states that sit atop the Bakken oil fields, workplace injuries have been an unwanted byproduct of the oil boom. Worker inexperience is part of the problem. Statistics show that in the oil and gas industry, the greatest number of injury claims are filed by workers who have been on the job for less than a year. But at least one expert believes the boom has hit the point that workers now have enough experience, on average, that workplace injuries will start to decrease.

But worker inexperience is only part of the problem. Unsafe working conditions are another. In fiscal year 2012, OSHA's North Dakota area office conducted 214 inspections in which violations were found. Of these, 91.1 percent involved a violation that was rated serious or higher on OSHA's scale.

When a Montana worker is injured on the job, they have the right to collect workers' compensation benefits from their employer. The benefits available include compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and temporary and permanent disability. In the event of a fatal accident, the workers' family can collect workers' compensation death benefits.

Unlike a civil lawsuit, in a workers' compensation claim the injured worker does not have to prove the employer was negligent. If a party other than the employer was at fault in causing the accident, however, the injured worker can bring a civil lawsuit against that party and recover monetary damages over and above the benefits available under the workers' compensation system. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can investigate the facts and counsel the injured worker or the family through the claim and litigation process.

Source: Bismarck Tribune, "Agencies work to reduce accidents," Jessica Holdman, Sept. 8, 2013

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