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The downturn is having a positive impact on worker health: safety culture is becoming stronger and there are fewer worker injuries and deaths. (Image courtesy of Concho Resources)

Fewer Bakken rigs, fewer oil worker deaths

Oil worker deaths in the Bakken were down in 2015, but officials can’t say why just yet, reports The Bismarck Tribune.

According to data collected from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there were three oil and gas-related worker deaths in 2015 compared to the seven in 2014 and 10 the year before that. Eric Brooks, director of OSHA’s Bismarck area office, told The Tribune that he anticipates that within a year, it will become more apparent whether or not the decrease is due to improved safety or fewer workers.

Over the past few years, overall workplace injuries have been declining steadily. As reported by The Tribune, North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance noted that although workforce injuries were higher than normal in previous year, the injuries sustained in the oilfield have never been disproportionate to the number of workers.

In a statement, WSI Director Bryan Klipfel said, “As the workforce has declined out in the oil patch, [this agency] has seen a corresponding drop in the number of injured worker claims. There are fewer workers, so there are proportionally fewer injuries.” He added that more experienced workers are typically retained the longest throughout the slump, which makes for a more safe work environment.

Chuck Clairmont, CEO of the private non-profit North Dakota Safety Council, told The Tribune that although oil and gas activity has declined dramatically, safety training course enrollments continue to climb. Over the past seven years, he said training sessions offered by the council have increased by about 20 percent each year. Clairmont added the organization is also seeing a more diverse set of workers attending, for example, supervisory training although they are not in a management position.

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