The recent oil boom in North Dakota – driven by hydraulic fracturing and advances in technology – is a big reason why the U.S. is now the world’s leader in combined oil and natural gas production.

But the boom in the Bakken shale, which stretches over North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada, has made it one of the deadliest places for workers in the country.

Reveal reporter Jennifer Gollan headed to North Dakota to examine the story of one young man’s tragic death, exposing the dangers oil workers face. Her investigation found that deeply entrenched corporate practices and weak federal oversight have inoculated major energy producers against responsibility when workers are killed or injured, while shifting the blame to others. Only one energy operator that leases or owns wells has been cited for worker deaths in North Dakota or Montana over the past five years, Reveal’s analysis has found.

Oil companies offer financial incentives to workers for speeding up production – potentially jeopardizing their safety – and shield themselves through a web of companies to avoid paying the full cost of settlements with affected workers and their families when workers are injured or killed.

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Jennifer Gollan

Jennifer Gollan is a reporter for Reveal, covering labor and corporate accountability.

An Emmy Award winner, Gollan has reported on topics ranging from oil companies that dodge accountability for workers’ deaths to lax manufacturing practices that contributed to deadly tire blowouts.

Gollan uncovered rampant exploitation and abuse of caregivers in the burgeoning elder care-home industry. The series, Caregivers and Takers, detailed how operators enriched themselves while paying workers about $2 an hour to work around the clock. The stories prompted a congressional hearing, plans for prosecutions and new state legislation. 

Gollan exposed how Navy shipbuilders received billions in public money even after their workers were killed or injured. In response to her reporting, Congress passed a new federal law, the Government Accountability Office produced a report and the Pentagon began scrutinizing the safety records of more defense contractors.

Gollan’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Guardian U.S., Politico Magazine and PBS NewsHour.

Her honors include a national Emmy Award, a Hillman Prize for web journalism, two Sigma Delta Chi Awards, a National Headliner Award, a Gracie Award and two Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing Awards. She has been a finalist for an ONA Online Journalism Award, an IRE Award and two Gerald Loeb Awards. Gollan is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.