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Oil Worker Deaths Spotlight Job Risks

Two men were killed and nine others injured in an explosion at an oil-drilling site in Texas on April 30. The incident occurred about 60 miles southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in Loving County.

The explosion hit workers trying to change a wellhead after too much pressure built up in the well. The two dead men were thrown 20 feet from the wellhead.

The men were contractors for RKI Exploration & Production, the owner of the well. “It’s extremely unfortunate. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the killed and injured,” Jeremy Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for RKI told the Los Angeles Times.

The deaths bring to seven the total number of oil workers killed in Loving County alone since 2006, and highlight the dangers oil workers face on the job. New data set to be released next week by the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor union, will show that North Dakota has the highest worker death rate in the country.

North Dakota, home of the oil-rich Bakken, had a worker death rate of 17.7 per 100,000 employees in 2012. That’s nearly double the seven deaths per 100,000 employees the state had before 2007, the year oil drilling began to pick up.

By comparison, the national average for workplace deaths is three fatalities per 100,000 employees. The AFL-CIO says that North Dakota’s death rate is one of the highest it has seen in over 20 years of tracking data.

Oil-related work is driving the rate increase, according to Eric Brooks, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Bismark, North Dakota office. He said half of the worker death cases he deals with involve the oil industry.

But Brooks also said he believes the death rate is trending downwards, as a safer workplace culture takes hold and better safety equipment and practices become more common.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com



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  • suzanne scott on May 04 2014 said:
    there is nothing more dangerous than a blow-out and nothing more dangerous than a company engaged in dangerous production habits in an unstable arena....this is murder when workers are killed....it is certain death. there are few few accidents in the oil business'/ even the oldest wildcatter knows when the pressure is just begging to build up. this is a great stain on the USA.

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