An oil well explosion in western North Dakota claimed a second victim Thursday after one of the three survivors of the blast died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. The two other victims remain in critical condition.
According to The Grand Forks Herald, the explosion occurred around 5:40 P.M. Wednesday evening near the town of Williston, North Dakota. A 21-year old Wisconsin man died at the scene and the three survivors were airlifted to Regions with severe burns. The men were operating a workover rig for Carlson Well Services Inc. As of Friday, the company has refused to comment on the explosion.
The cause of the blast is currently under investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, among other agencies. OSHA area manager Tim Deutscher told the Bismark Tribune that fatalities in the oil-rich region are on the rise, and the first question his office asks is whether the victims were wearing fire-retardant clothing. Deutscher said it is at the company’s discretion to assess fire risk and require protective clothing at job sites.
OSHA issued a memo in 2010 warning of the risks of operating an oil rig without the use of proper protective equipment. While most companies do require the clothing, some do not. Deutscher referred to the issue as “the old seat belt rule,” with those companies who do require fire-retardant clothing reporting that the policy has saved lives and minimized injuries in some situations.
Western North Dakota has been the forefront of the one of the largest North American oil booms in recent history, but with increased production has come increased risk. There have now been five recorded oil rig fatalities in the state this year, up from three in 2010. The number of injuries has increased by more than 150 percent from 2010, with 1,897 injuries already reported in 2011.
If you or a loved one has been severely injured from an oil rig explosion or similar catastrophic workplace accident, please contact our office immediately for a free consultation. You can also learn more about GoldenbergLaw, PLLC by visiting our website.