North Dakota Has Second Highest Rate of Worker Deaths in the U.S.
Union leaders and workers say the low number of OSHA compliance officers contributes to the low mark
FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota is the second worst state for the rate of worker deaths, according to the AFL-CIO’s 2019 safety report.
Jeremiah Johnson, an electrician, faces dangers everyday on the job.
“There’s voltage shocks you could receive if you’re not wearing proper suits and gear, you lift a lot of heavy things, you lift stuff with cranes, big equipment,” he said.
Workers say people usually get hurt because they’re rushing through their work.
“A lot of people say, ‘I’ve done this 100 times and nothing’s happened.’ Well it’s that 101 time that something does happen,” Nathan Brandt, president of the Northern Plains Labor Council, said.
The AFL-CIO report says there were 38 workplace deaths in 2017 in North Dakota. Considering the state’s population, that’s nearly three times the national rate.
“It’s something I hope nobody’s proud of,” Brandt said.
Johnson says there are lots of safety regulations in his job.
Union leaders and workers say the low number of OSHA compliance officers in the state contributes to its low mark in safety.
The Peace Garden State only has seven, and the Northern Plains Labor Council says it would take 92 years for every jobsite in North Dakota to be inspected.
“We want more OSHA people in the state and monitoring jobs and incidents,” Brandt said.
The AFL–CIO report says the Trump administration has rolled back lots of safety protections for workers.
“If people have a safety issue, it needs to be talked about, work needs to stop, things need to be corrected,” Brandt said.
Johnson says he has to get a signature every time he completes a safety program task. He says he wants to see that expand across the board.
“I think the superintendent of every job or company contractor should have a safety policy for every contractor, sub contractor that comes in,” he said.
Alaska has the highest number of worker deaths in the country, with North Dakota at a close second. To see the full report, click here.