OSHA investigates 3 workplace deaths in northwest North Dakota

BISMARCK — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating three possible workplace deaths that resulted from two unrelated incidents in northwest North Dakota.

Watford City police reported to OSHA on Monday that an employee of Power Fuels died on Friday, possibly as a result of cleaning the inside of a tank, said Eric Brooks, area director of the Bismarck OSHA office.

An OSHA team is expected to investigate the site today, Brooks said. The man’s name has not been released.

Watford City Police Chief Jesse Wellen said it’s unclear if the man’s death was work-related. The man died at his apartment building and officials decided to get OSHA involved to assist with the investigation, Wellen said.

“We just got them (OSHA) involved because there was an outside belief that it could have been work-related, but there’s nothing right now that says it is,” Wellen said. “We’re waiting until the case is closed.”

The man was taken to the North Dakota Forensic Medical Examiner in Bismarck for an autopsy, Wellen said.

Power Fuels is an oilfield service and transportation business. The company did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

The OSHA team also will investigate the deaths of two men who died after falling more than 200 feet from a tower in Mountrail County, Brooks said.

Mountrail County Sheriff Ken Halvorson said in a news release his office received a 911 call at 11:30 a.m. Monday after Namon Smith, 42, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Zachary Roberts, 25, Lakeland, Ga., fell from a tower about six miles northeast of New Town.

The men were working at the 250-foot level of a 300-foot tower when one worker fell and struck the other worker, causing him to also fall, Halvorson said. Both men wore harnesses and hard hats and the reason for the safety equipment failure is under investigation, he said.

The men worked for Monarch Towers of Sarasota, Fla., which is a subcontractor of Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the news release said. They were working to reinforce a tower owned by Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative so more equipment could be added to the tower, authorities said.

Both men were transported to Bismarck for autopsies.

The Bismarck OSHA office has investigated 12 workplace fatalities in North Dakota since Oct. 1, Brooks said. Eight of those fatalities related to the oil and gas industry.

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