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Workplace accident: How safe will reopening Bakken oilrigs be?

Things are looking up for Bakken oil field workers in North Dakota. Many lost their jobs in the severe downturn in recent years, but oil companies are advertising for workers again. Hopefully, employers will ensure compliance with safety regulations because one workplace accident can cause multiple injuries, or worse.

After the price of oil had dropped to lower than $27 per barrel at the beginning of 2016 from over $136 per barrel in July 2008, many oil rigs went offline, and employees were laid off. Rig numbers in North Dakota fell from 218 -- the May 2012 count – to almost none but increased again over recent months to a count of 39 at the end of Dec. 2016 with prices exceeding $50 again. Recently, about 500 oil-related jobs for the new year were posted by a job service agency in North Dakota.

Reportedly, the oil companies will be hiring workers that are more skilled because not much drilling will take place. There will be more workover and service rigs, which involve installing pumps and completing wells after drilling is complete. With the new activity on the oil rigs, workers will risk their lives, and one could only hope that company owners will ensure that all workers are adequately trained and that they are aware of the hazards of the jobs.

While the availability of jobs on the North Dakota oil rigs may bring relief to the many unemployed rig workers in the Bakken, safety must remain a priority. However, if on-the-job injuries are suffered in a workplace accident, victims can pursue financial assistance with doctors' bills and hospital fees. They can file benefits claims with the state's workers' compensation insurance system. Workers who are temporarily disabled may also receive a financial package to make up for a portion of lost wages.

Source: bismarcktribune.com, "Oil companies hiring fracking crews in Bakken", April Baumgarten, Dec. 29, 2016

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