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Oil-field deaths show serious workplace safety issues

Much of the western United States has been part of the oil and natural resource industry in one way or another and Colorado is no exception. Though workplace safety has improved across all Colorado employers, the oil industry continues to remain fairly dangerous. In some states, the number of people who die in the oil and gas field services is higher than any other industry. What this ultimately says is that there are real safety issues that are not being properly addressed.

In an effort to address these issues, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration asked all oil and gas employers in Colorado and across the country to "stand down." This voluntary work stoppage is an attempt by the federal government to have employers re-examine their safety procedures and look for risks that may cost employees their lives.

There is only so much that the federal government can do to force employers to create safe work environments for their employees. They can mandate employers follow specific safety features as part of their work processes and they can dictate what kind of training is necessary for employees before they operate specific machinery or engage in certain fields, but employers must actually implement these requirements. Though the threat of a hefty fine will certainly scare many employers into complying with federal requirements, not all employers will do what is required of them.

When something tragic like a workplace death does happen, however, the surviving family members are left with some options. In many cases, they can file for Colorado workers' compensation dependency and death benefits. Though a sum of money will never bring back a loved one who has died on the job, it can help families transition into a single-income household and allow them to worry about one less thing as they grieve their tremendous loss.

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

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