This blog has noted on a number of occasions that the oil fields of Montana and North Dakota are hazardous places to work. Now statistics released by the Associated Press show the extent of the danger: North Dakota had more workplace fatalities than any other state in 2011. Ten workers were killed in North Dakota between October 2013 and September 2014; four of those deaths were in the oil fields.
The latest tragedy to add to these sober statistics occurred in late April, when a 20-year-old man from Glasgow, Montana died on a well site five miles south of Williston, North Dakota. The man was found unconscious on the well pad; he was declared dead at the scene. The man was a flow tester for a sub-contractor of Continental Resources. He leaves behind a fiancée and a baby boy.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent an investigator to the site the same day. The OSHA investigation is ongoing, and at the time this post was prepared the cause of death had not been officially determined.
When a worker dies in an oil field accident, the surviving family members are entitled to collect workers’ compensation death benefits. The death benefits provide some compensation to the family to make up for the loss of the deceased worker’s financial support. Workers’ compensation law bars the employee from bringing a civil lawsuit against the employer, but if a non-employer party was partially or entirely at fault in causing the accident, the family can bring a wrongful death claim against that party and recover additional damages.
Source: Williston Herald, “Man dies in oilfield accident,” Eric Killelea, May 1, 2014