OSHA to Increase Oil and Gas Safety Enforcement
Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) August 12, 2014 - Responding to a spate of deaths among North Dakota oil and gas workers, federal safety officials are stepping up their enforcement efforts in the region.
In July, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an enforcement emphasis program focused on the Bakken region of North Dakota, where advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies in 2000 have led to a still-continuing boom in oil production.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, 34 oil, gas and construction workers in North Dakota have suffered fatal work-related injuries since January 2012.
Attorney Richard LaGarde said the increased federal oversight is necessary to protect workers.
“Oil and gas jobs are inherently dangerous, and the industry in North Dakota is rapidly expanding,” LaGarde said. “That situation can allow lax safety standards to grow. Oil workers endure compromised safety conditions too often -- as evidenced by the large number of critical and fatal injuries in recent years.”
The enforcement effort will focus on an increased OSHA personnel presence in the region. These professionals will conduct additional inspections of work sites. Both oil/gas drilling operations and construction sites will receive extra scrutiny.
Of the 34 oil, gas and construction deaths in the state since January 2012, 21 occurred during work on drilling rigs or support operations. The remaining 13 occurred on construction sites, primarily due to falls, “struck-by” accidents and trench cave-ins. The safety failures in construction started in much the same way as those in the oil and gas industry. As the industry expanded, construction injuries accelerated as communities scrambled to keep up with the demand for new infrastructure and housing.
Most oil and gas industry inspections are focused on preventing traumatic injury and death, but OSHA will also sample hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” operations for gases that are hazardous to worker health and the environment.
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