Silica Exposure at Fracking Sites Prompts Alert
The State Journal
22 June 2012
By Taylor Kuykendall, Reporter
Natural gas drillers are being urged by federal agencies to
monitor the hazards of silica exposure on hydraulic fracturing
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health
Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health issued a hazard alert yesterday, letting employers know
that a study from NIOSH identified overexposure to silica as a
health hazard for workers at hydraulic fracturing sites.
"Hazardous exposures to silica can and must be prevented. It is
important for employers and workers to understand the hazards
associated with silica exposure in hydraulic fracturing operations
and how to protect workers," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant
secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "OSHA and
NIOSH are committed to continuing to work with the industry and
workers to find effective solutions to address these hazards."
Exposure to respirable silica is a common hazard across a variety
NIOSH began working with the industry in 2012 to collect data on
silica exposure at hydraulic fracturing operations. They
identified seven primary sources of silica dust exposure during
fracturing operation. The highest exposures were among workers
downwind of sand mover and blender operations.
The biggest risk for workers is development of silicosis, a
condition linked to lung cancer and other disease.
"Through partnerships, both businesses and safety professionals
are able to collaborate on assessing and managing occupational
safety and health risks," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.
"The recommendations for protecting workers in the hazard alert
are practical, evidence-based and effective solutions to help
support the safe growth of American-made energy."
Recommendations include "a combination of engineering
controls, work practices, protective equipment and product
substitution, where feasible, along with worker training."
"We applaud the efforts of the NIOSH NORA Council for Oil and Gas
Extraction, OSHA and our partners from industry for helping to
raise awareness of this hazard," said Kenny Jordan, executive
director of the Association of Energy Service Companies."
According to the NIOSH news release, AFL-CIO Health and Safety
Director Margaret Seminario said, "The AFL-CIO strongly supports
this hazard alert that provides important information to employers
and workers involved in hydraulic fracturing operations regarding
the serious health threat from silica exposures. It is critical
that OSHA and NIOSH disseminate this information, so that
immediate action can be taken to protect workers from silicosis
and other silica-related diseases.".