OSHA is ramping up enforcement efforts in North Dakota in an effort to address oilfield and construction fatalities. The agency made the announcement yesterday that it is in additional investigators from other offices and sending them to North Dakota.
According to OSHA, oil & gas and construction incidents accounted for 87% of the fatalities it investigated in North Dakota in the last four years. In all 34 workers died in oil & gas or construction during that period. Significantly, 21 of those deaths involved personnel working on and servicing drilling rigs or conducting production support operations in the oil and gas industry.
OSHA has tried a number of strategies to bring the North Dakota incident rate down. On the carrot side, OSHA has worked with industry on safety stand downs and communicating safety information. On the stick side, OSHA has had a” local emphasis program” for the oil and gas industry for the last three years, including chemical sampling of fracking and tank gauging operations to test for atmospheric hazards. As noted in an earlier blog, OSHA has also been issuing larger fines and refusing to negotiate them in the area.
Clearly OSHA only has so many tools in its toolbox and the solution can only come from industry.