The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a hazard alert that urges employers in hydraulic fracturing operations to take appropriate steps to protect workers from silica exposure. Last month, in response to findings reported by NIOSH that workers in fracking operations were exposed to silica levels well in excess of OSHA permissible and NIOSH recommended levels, the AFL-CIO, Mine Workers (UMWA) and the United Steelworkers (USW) sent a letter to the federal workplace safety agencies urging they act to protect workers in these operations.
AFL-CIO Health and Safety Director Peg Seminario says the alert, issued yesterday, 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.
A recent NIOSH study found silica exposure is a major workplace hazed in fracking operations. Workers exposed to silica run the risk of developing silicosis, lung cancer and other debilitating diseases.
Silica sand is a major component of the fracking process. The sand is mixed with large volumes of water and chemical additives and injected under high pressure by drilling into shale rock. Massive quantities of sand are used, and workers are at risk of high levels of exposure during multiple points of the fracking process.
OSHA administrator Dr. David Michaels says, "[H]azardous 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.
The hazard alert provides specific steps employers can take to reduce silica exposure. Click here for the alert.