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Oil industry riddled with fatalities

Though the oil industry is not as prominent in Ohio, it is still relevant and data reported by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding the industry is important to know. According to that data, oil workers and miners are victims of the highest number of deaths in some states. This is alarming and the circumstances surrounding some fatalities have resulted in wrongful death suits from survivors of the victims.

For instance, a worker who perished in April 2009 was killed by flying debris from a natural gas well. A blowout had occurred and pressurized debris caused the man's death. His employers were fined $2,500 by OSHA, a relatively menial sum. Soon after his death, his widow filed a lawsuit seeking $1.2 million from her husband's employer. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount, likely more than the fine that the company was required to pay.

Another death occurred when a man decided to return to the oil fields for another year to pay off tuition costs he accumulated for his daughter and son. He was planning to quit so that he could spend time with his first grandchild but during that year, he was struck in the head by a metal attachment that had fallen off a forklift. Investigations revealed that the attachment was not properly installed and the worker did not operate the forklift correctly. The mistakes of the operator caused the basket to tip, sending the attachment into the new grandfather. His death came so soon after he became a grandfather that his daughter was still on maternity leave at the time.

Six serious violations were discovered by OSHA in this incident, which initially suggested a fine of more than $35,000. That fine was reduced but a wrongful death suit was filed by the survivors of the man, including his wife and two kids. They were awarded nearly $9 million by a jury.

Source: KBTX, "Workplace Deaths Drop - But Not in the Oil Industry," Yang Wang and Lise Olsen, Feb. 10, 2013

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