Workers have flooded North Dakota to work in the booming oil industry.
Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey from Causey Law Firm.
A recent article in the New York Times (An Oil Boom Takes a Toll on Health Care, January 28, 2013) recounted the growing burden on North Dakota hospitals because of on-the-job injuries to workers who have flooded that state to work in the booming oil industry. Apparently North Dakota hospitals are swimming in debt from unpaid bills because, as the article by John Eligon states, “many of the new patients are transient men without health insurance or a permanent address in the area.”
“Swamped by uninsured laborers flocking to dangerous jobs in the oil industry, the hospitals here in the North Dakota oil patch are sinking under skyrocketing debt, a flood of gruesome injuries and bloated business costs from the inflated economy.” – John Eligon, New York Times
Mr. Eligon goes on to discuss actions by the governor and state legislature to increase medical training and medical facilities in North Dakota, and to obtain increased Medicaid financing for the state’s rural hospitals. Not only are medical facilities groaning from the increase of gruesome injuries associated with highly dangerous work environments, Mr. Eligon recounts the health issues that arise from the cramped housing scenarios in the work camps that have sprung up near the oil fields. This includes a significant increase in the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.
The North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance site includes its catchy motto – “Putting Safety to Work.”
However, nowhere in Mr. Eligon’s article is there any mention of, or reference to, North Dakota’s workers compensation system which would seemingly provide the principal coverage for the injuries and conditions that are the subject of his article. Is the NYT oblivious to the fact of coverage for industrial injuries and conditions under each state’s workers compensation law? Or are workers injured in the new booming oil economy of North Dakota somehow being denied coverage under that state’s system, or being engineered out of coverage by the terms of their employment with the oil companies? It seems that a minimal inquiry, at least, on these points was owed by the NYT in its article.
Photo credit: nestor galina / Foter.com / CC BY
Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.
Our law firm recently completed successful litigation involving eight families against various chemical companies. A member of each family got cancer from working at a local plant where industrial solutions were used to make rubber products.
Stating the obvious, cancer is universally bad, regardless of how much money a person has; what their religious or political views are; how old they are; or how/where/why they got cancer. That being said, I think workers especially need to be aware of the dangers and exposures to carcinogens that can occur because of chemicals in the workplace. According to a United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, “Carcinogens are agents that can cause cancer. In industry, there are many potential exposures to carcinogens. Generally, workplace exposures are considered to be at higher levels than for public exposures. Material safety data sheets (MSDSs) should always contain an indication of carcinogenic potential.”
Respected colleague Jon Gelman from New Jersey shares his thoughts on the subject in this blog post at http://workers-compensation.blogspot.com/2012/10/romney-regulation-risk-of-cancer.html. And I thank him for sharing the op-ed resource from a recent Sunday’s edition of The New York Times.
According to the Times piece, lobbyists associated with the chemical industry want to “shoot the messenger” by limiting or getting rid of the U.S. government’s Report on Carcinogens. Because if workers don’t know about carcinogens in their workplace, they won’t get cancer? Or more accurately, at least they won’t be able to tie that cancer to their workplace? Tell that to the American Cancer Society, whose web site includes a page specific to carcinogens and uses various sources, both national and international, to determine what carcinogens are.
Mr. Gelman also mentions in his blog post that certain lobbyists and politicians want to limit the regulation of these chemicals, which the Times story calls “scientific consensus” for their listing as cancer-causing carcinogens. It’s very challenging for consumers to know what substances, either naturally occurring or made by humans are safe to eat and use. To take that confusion into the workplace by limiting the information available to workers to be as safe as possible in their jobs, especially when long-term consequences like cancer are a possibility, is a shame.