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Young man's death in Bakken oilfield subject of lawsuit

While the Bakken oil fields may be a boost to Montana’s economy, some of the work there can be dangerous. Injuries are not uncommon. And one young man who lost his life there earlier this year is now the subject of a wrongful death suit filed by his father.  The lawsuit alleges that the equipment he was using was not appropriate and that the companies were negligent in properly setting up the equipment, leading to the fatal accident.

The worker’s death occurred when he was installing pipe using power tongs which are used in a newly drilled well to twist pipe into place. The lawsuit alleges that companies responsible for the equipment did not use the proper method to secure the tongs to the cable which should prevent the tongs from falling. In the accident that is the basis of the lawsuit, the 1200-pound power tongs were not properly secured and crushed the young man’s chest and abdomen when they fell on him.

When the worker was killed, he had stepped out of the safety zone to inform the operator of the machinery of the danger of the situation. In addition, several other factors coincided to cause his death. Because of the 20-below-zero temperatures that day, the already tenuous situation made the electrical tape used to reinforce the equipment brittle and more likely to give way. 

Another factor that complicated the situation is that one of the oil companies owned power tongs to fit the rig that the worker was using, but refused to allow his employer to use them. That company was investigated by OSHA after the death and was fined about $2,000. But the lawsuit filed by the man against the companies for negligence is intended to recover compensation, to the extent it can be recovered, for the loss of the life of his son.  And, perhaps, to bring attention to the dangers of working in the Bakken oil fields and prevent any more deaths from occurring there. 

Source: Billings Gazette, “Kalispell father files suit over son’s Bakken oilfield death, alleges negligence,” March 26, 2014

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