A 20-year-old man died at a Continental Resources location in McKenzie County on Monday.
Zach Buckles, a flow tester for Black Gold Testers, was found unresponsive on the well pad site located five miles south of Williston, said Occupational Safety and Health Administration Area Director Eric Brooks. Buckles was pronounced dead on the scene.
Black Gold Testers is a sub-contractor for Continental Resources, Brooks said.
OSHA was notified of the incident Monday morning, and an investigator arrived on scene later that afternoon, Brooks said. OSHA is awaiting results from the North Dakota State Forensic Examiner’s Office on cause of death.
“Continental provided immediate and timely notification to [OSHA], which is conducting a formal investigation,” said Kristin Miskovsky, vice president of public relations at Continental Resources in email.
The state examiner’s office says an autopsy was conducted Tuesday, but the investigation is pending.
Buckles was born in Glasgow, Mont., the son of Mike Meland and Nicole Buckles, according to an obituary on the KLTZ/MIX-93 website.
He attended Glasgow High School until 2011 and was since employed in the oilfield as a flow tester on oil rigs.
He is survived by his fiance Naomi Wooley and an infant son, according to the website.
Oil and gas industry-related worker fatalities represent nearly 50 percent of the reports to OSHA’s Bismarck office, Brooks said. The office has eight investigators that cover incidents in North Dakota and South Dakota.
There were 10 fatalities reported to OSHA between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 1, 2014, Brooks said. Four represented fatalities of oil and gas workers in the Bakken Formation.
There were 71 fatalities reported to OSHA in the past four years, 34 of which represented oil and gas workers, Brooks said.
“It is a mix of drilling and servicing operations,” Brooks said. “That’s going to be the bulk [of reported fatalities in the oilfield].”
The description of incidents often involve workers struck by machinery, caught in between machinery, electrocutions, explosions and fire. These descriptions cover well over 80 percent of the incidents.
“OSHA has a six-month statute of limitations to investigate each fatality,” Brooks said. “Our goal is to get there within 24 hours.”
According to The Associated Press, North Dakota had the highest worker fatality rate in the nation in 2011, with 12.4 deaths per 100,000 employees that year. The national worker fatality rate was 3.5 deaths per 100,000 employees in 2011.
The AFL-CIO said other states that showed high worker fatality rates in 2012 include Wyoming, Alaska, West Virginia and South Dakota.
North Dakota’s spiking worker fatality rate in recent years coincides with the state’s oil boom, which has attracted tens of thousands of workers, made Williston the fastest-growing micropolitan area in the nation and given the state the lowest unemployment rate in the country