Editorial: Put resources where most neededIt was disappointing to see the results from a recent report that show Montana and North Dakota are among the worst when it comes to worker safety.
It was disappointing to see the results from a recent report that show Montana and North Dakota are among the worst when it comes to worker safety.
The rankings could be tied to the number of agriculture, construction and oilfield-related occupations in North Dakota and Montana, which are higher than much of the nation. However, this is not an excuse to cut corners when it comes to safety.
Significant increases in the number of people in the Bakken must be taken into account.
Every business is dangerous to a point and oilfield work (which there is plenty of in the area) can be especially hazardous with its heavy equipment, increased big-rig traffic, working at high elevations and the resource hundreds of workers come in contact with — oil — drawing a flammable fluid from the earth.
What can be cruel North Dakota weather, with below-zero temperatures, relentless snow and high winds, doesn’t help these situations.
It is the responsibility of the employer to keep workers safe and more should ensure their crews understand policies and procedures — from wearing a hardhat to knowing the fastest route to get away from life-and-death situations such as fires.
With high turnover, new hires should be trained in safety regulations before stepping foot into their new duties.
Overworked employees can also be a danger, sometimes taking shortcuts which put themselves and others at risk.
And a number of businesses are doing it right. Safety is their goal.
Many oil companies begin their days with a mandatory safety meeting. They understand how critical keeping their workers out of harms way is and want to keep all in good health.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations report shows the number of workplace inspectors is woefully inadequate, penalties are too low to deter violations, and criminal penalties for violations are weak.
A lack of resources is not an excuse.
With unemployment rates lower in much of the nation than the Plains, federal agencies need to put their resources where the problems are.
As one health department employee told The Press, it’s more risky to work in construction and agriculture than in a bank. Agreed. As industry grows, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration needs to keep up.
Send the inspectors to locations that undoubtedly have more people working in these sectors than areas where most are sitting behind a desk.
Montana’s ratio for fatalities to workers is more than triple the national average of 3.3 per 100,000 and North Dakota’s rate was more than double the national average at 7.2.
The lowest fatality rates were reported in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Delaware.
North Dakota reported 25 workplace fatalities in 2009 and Montana reported 50, according to the report.
The state must be diligent with all that is going on here. It just makes sense.
Training and more training, learning from mistakes and keeping workers safe are keys.
Publisher Harvey Brock and Editor Jennifer McBride are on The Press Editorial Board.