Jan 12 7:00 PM

North Dakota governor's office on keeping oil workers safe

DJ Allred inspects the tanker trailer that exploded while his late friend Dustin Payne was working on it in a North Dakota oil field.
Josh Rushing for Al Jazeera America

Watch "Death on the Bakken Shale," Fault Lines' investigation into why North Dakota's worker fatality rate is so high. It airs Monday, January 12, at 9 pm Eastern time/6 pm Pacific on Al Jazeera America. | Click here to find Al Jazeera in your area.


For "Death on the Bakken Shale," Fault Lines spent six months investigating safety risks in North Dakota’s oil fields and uncovered a dark side to the boom—the human cost. The rush to tap the Bakken has brought with it the highest worker fatality rates in the country. We traveled to North Dakota to find out why so many are dying and who should be held responsible.

In the course of reporting, Fault Lines requested an interview with North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple several times, with no success. His policy advisor Jeff Zent sent us the following response by email (emphasis is his):


On July 15, 2014, OHSA reported the launching of an enforcement emphasis in North Dakota. The program brings in additional investigators from throughout the United States on a temporary basis to increase OSHA’s field presence in North Dakota.

OSHA reported seeing an improvement in North Dakota’s oil fields, and that the fatality rate has decreased since OSHA has implemented the enforcement emphasis program. OSHA did not quantify improvements.

OSHA had extra staff in from other offices from early July through August to conduct additional inspections.

OSHA area director Eric Brooks said if the inspectors find pervasive issues, the administration may call upon additional resources.


Bureau of Labor Statistics- Workplace Fatalities

BLS reports that of 64 fatal work injuries reported in North Dakota in 2012, 39 resulted from transportation incidents and accounted for almost two-thirds (61 percent ) of all fatal work injuries.

Within transportation incidents, roadway accidents involving motorized vehicles were the most frequent type of workplace fatality with 25 deaths. All other major event categories each reported less than 10 deaths.


Growth Trends on North Dakota Roadways

·    Traffic Growth – The number of miles driven on state highways has increased significantly. From 2010-2012 North Dakota saw a 22% increase in statewide traffic and a 53% increase in traffic in western North Dakota.  Traffic growth remains at high levels in 2013 and 2014. (Please see attachment with traffic graphs)

·    The number of vehicle miles traveled in North Dakota has increased from 7.4 billion miles in 2005 to more than 10 billion miles in 2013.

·    The number of commercial licensed drivers has increased from 46,469 in 2010 to 52,810 in 2013.

·    The state has seen tremendous growth in several areas, including:

    o     Agricultural growth - crop production has increased approximately 195% from 1980-2012.

    o    Energy Growth – Barrels of oil produced daily increased from 344,000 in 2010 to 1 million barrels in 2014.

    o    Population Growth - North Dakota’s population reached an all-time high in 2013, an increase of 12.6% from Census data taken in 2000.

    o    North Dakota’s economy continues to outpace all other states and the national average, increasing at an average rate. Since 2000, North Dakota’s annual growth rate has averaged 9.2 percent comparted to the national average of 3.9 percent over the same time period.


A Proactive and Collaborative Approach to Statewide Workforce Safety

Statewide efforts to enhance safety include:

·    Added 20 Highway Patrol troopers since 2011, most stationed in western North Dakota

·    About $3.4 billion in state funding since 2011 to improve state highways, county roads, city streets, township roads and other public infrastructure. Funding used to build bypass routes, U.S 85 four-lane project, roundabouts and other improvements.

·    $382 million in Energy Impact Grants since 2011 to help western North Dakota fund enhancements for local law enforcement agencies, emergency responders and other critical needs

·    2011-ban on texting and driving

·    2013 -Passage of tougher laws against drunk driving

·    State agencies including Workforce Safety and Insurance, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the North Dakota Department of Health and the North Dakota Department of Commerce collaborate within a statewide network of non-profit work safety associations and the private sector to promote the importance of safe work places, to provide OSHA-certified training and to provide equipment that makes job sites safer.


Workforce Safety and Insurance

·    WSI is an insurer, a provider of workers’ compensation insurance and safety consulting services.

·    WSI’s Loss Prevention Department and Education Unit provide a wide range of services to employers that include safety training programs, free safety consultations and insurance discount programs that further incentivize employers to make worker safety their top priority.

·    14 safety inspectors.

·    WSI employs 14 safety consultants throughout the state to assist employers directly in their efforts to prevent and reduce workplace injuries.

·    WSI provides premium discounts to employers for successful participation in safety programs. Employers can receive up to a 25% premium discount by choosing to participate in a variety of safety programs. $21 million in safety premium discounts were issued in FY 2014.

·    Qualifying North Dakota associations and employee organizations can receive funding up to $150,000 annually for safety training and education programs. A partial list of participants includes the ND Petroleum Council, North Dakota Safety Council, Associated General Contractors of ND, and ND Firefighter’s Association.

·    Over the last nine years, WSI has provided nearly $26 million in safety grants.  WSI also provides employers with online training programs through the WSI Learning Management System (LMS).

·    Since 1995, by emphasizing safety in the workplace, the overall injury rate has declined from 7.66 injuries per 100 covered workers to 6.30 injuries per 100 covered workers in 2014, a reduction of nearly 18%.

·    Severe injury rates (injuries resulting in time away from work) in North Dakota have declined 39% since 1995.

·    More than half of all covered fatalities are the result of motor vehicle accidents. (52.7% for 2013 and 2014)

·    Independent surveys of North Dakota’s injured workers and employers consistently show a satisfaction rating of 4 plus based on a scale of 1-5. (4.31 and 4.22 respectively in the last survey).

·    There has not been a marked increase in the insurance rates being charged to employers for covering the expected accident risks in the oil patch. (table below)

·    Rate adjustments are reflective of class experience. Classes with favorable loss movement experience rate reductions and classes with adverse loss movement experience rate increases.

·    5 of 6 oil classes experienced rate reductions in 2013 (3 classes with double digit reductions).

·    2 of 6 oil classes experienced continued rate reductions in 2014.


Manual rates                                             2013            2014

Oil and Gas Operations                             -9.2%           +3%

Oil and Gas Development-Drilling          -5.1%            -9%

Oil & Gas Well Sply or Equip. Dlrs.          +6.6%          +13%

Oil Well Trucking                                        -19.9%         +1.7%     

Oil Well Servicing                                        -13%            -4.9%

Oil and Gas Instrument Logging               -23.4%        +9.4%


The North Dakota Safety Council

The ND Safety Council is a private non-profit organization supported through grants, donations and memberships. The council’s mission is to save lives and prevent injuries at work, at home, on our roads and in our communities through education, training, leadership and advocacy. With nearly 1,000 member companies representing all sizes of all industries, the NDSC is an active participant in influencing safe work practices all across North Dakota.

·    1,000 corporate members

·    Funded with membership dues and state grant dollars

·    22 employees

·    Has trained more than 37,000 workers

·    7 OSHA-certified trainers

·    Annual 4-day workforce safety training program in Bismarck draws more than 1,000 attendees. The annual training program is the largest of its kind in the three state area of ND, SD and Wyoming.  Includes more than 70 training classes.

·    Provides training programs and on-the-job safety training for many industries including:

    o    Oil and gas

    o    Wind Power

    o    Construction

    o    Manufacturing

    o    Transportation

·    State support for the ND Safety Council has steadily increased since the organization’s establishment in 2007.

·    Efforts underway to build a new, state-of-the-art training and teleconference center in Bismarck to serve the state’s growing commercial sector.



Regional offices are located on four University System community college campuses:

-TrainND Northwest - Williston State College

-TrainND Northeast - Lake Region State College

-TrainND Southeast - North Dakota State College of Science

-TrainND Southwest - Bismarck State College

-TrainND provides skills training and safety training.

·    7 OSHA-certified training instructors in several areas of workplace safety including:

·    Customized safety training to meet company needs

·    Hazard recognition

·    CDL skill evaluation

·    78 percent of current training activity involves oil and gas industry

·    16,769 employees received training throughout Train ND in fiscal year 2013

Other important members of the statewide network include local safety associations including:

·    North Central Safety Association

·    Minot Area Safety Association

·    Northern Region Association of Safety Professionals

·    Southeast Area Safety Association, Dickinson

·    Williston Area Safety Association


·    We want all workers to get home safe.

·    North Dakota’s commitment to workforce safety has expanded drastically to meet the needs of a growing and commercially active state.

·    A growing population, a growing workforce which includes a large non-resident workforce, and significant increases in road traffic are challenges that we constantly address.

·    North Dakota industry profile is largely made up of business sectors that are inherently more dangerous than others: Agriculture, mining, oil and gas development, construction and manufacturing.

·    61 percent of work fatalities in 2012 were transportation related, and we continue to commit major resources to address this situation.

·    We believe we have an effective strategy whereby we focus on employee and worker education, safety training and incentives to operate safe work places.  OSHA plays a critical role by enforcing federal safety laws, and OSHA officials have said they may add additional resources in North Dakota if they see the need.


North Dakota

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