North Dakota may be the fastest growing state in the United States since 2011, but it also carries a high death rate among workers due in large part to the oil boom.
“The oil boom has come with a hefty price tag of a steep increase in deaths on the job,” the labor union said.
There were 44 worker deaths in North Dakota in 2011 — latest statistics available — for a rate of 12.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. That was well above the national rate of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, the report said.
The lowest worker death rate was in New Hampshire, with 1.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers, the report says.
Half of North Dakota’s worker fatalities since 2010 have been in oil and gas occupations, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
North Dakota last year passed Alaska to become the nation’s second-leading oil producer.
Tom Ricker, head of the AFL-CIO chapter in North Dakota, told The Bismarck Tribune that North Dakota’s worker death rate is shocking.
“This is not something we want to be No. 1 at,” he said.North Dakota is dominated by the energy, agriculture and heavy manufacturing industries — all of which can be dangerous, Gov. Jack Dalrymple told The Dickinson Press.
“I think it is mostly a function of the industries that your state (has) and the number of people in your state,” he said. North Dakota’s population is estimated at just under 700,000.
“If we were Connecticut and we all worked in office buildings all day long, we would have a much better rate,” Dalrymple said.
A combination of a need for workers and a flood of inexperienced workers from around the country is part of the reason fatalities have gone up in recent years, said Bill Wuolu, training director for the nonprofit North Dakota Safety Council.
“The rest of the United States is in an economic downturn,” he said. “We have an economy here, and we have a need for workers, and what we’re getting is workers that are doing jobs that they’re not trained, skilled or maybe qualified — or some combination of those three — for.”
Dalrymple said he believes North Dakota companies “compare well with the average company in the United States” when it comes to a commitment to safety.