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August 4, 2014

OSHA Launches Focused Enforcement Program in North Dakota

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OSHA has launched an enforcement emphasis program in North Dakota that brings in additional inspectors to address the oil and gas and construction industries. The move is in response to recent increases in fatalities in the state.

Since January 2012, 34 North Dakota workers in these industries have died from work-related injuries. Of the 34 workers, 21 died while working on and servicing drilling rigs or conducting production support operations in the oil and gas industry. These workers are exposed to serious hazards, such as fires, explosions and equipment-related dangers, on a daily basis. 

Additionally, 13 construction workers have died because of falls, struck-by hazards and trench cave-ins. Fall hazards in construction remain the leading cause of death in the industry, with hundreds of lives lost nationally each year.

"These industries are inherently dangerous, and workers are exposed to multiple hazards every day" said OSHA's area director in Bismarck. He notes that workers are coming to the state "... to find jobs, not catastrophic injury and preventable death."

OSHA has had a local emphasis program for the oil and gas industry for the last three years, which outlines hazards and allows for increased enforcement. The enforcement program includes chemical sampling of fracking and tank gauging operations to test for atmospheric hazards, violations found in recent inspections. In addition, OSHA's Oil and Gas Well Drilling eTool identifies common hazards and possible solutions to reduce incidents that could lead to injuries or fatalities.

OSHA has also participated in outreach events with oil and gas employers, including a multi-state stand-down with the Montana-North Dakota chapter of the National Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network in which more than 160 employers and 1,000 workers voluntarily ceased operations for one day to discuss hazards and effective means to address them. 

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