Ohio has been a hotbed for the recent boom in the hydraulic fracturing of shale to extract oil and gas. The process involves injecting large amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to access oil and gas reserves that were previously unreachable. A recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration announcement now reveals that unsafe working conditions exist at these worksites.
Although environmental groups and public health advocates have expressed concerns about the potential effects of this process on the environment, workplace injuries at hydraulic fracturing worksites have not previously been addressed in the same way.
This week, OSHand the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued a hazard alert to employers and workers regarding the unsafe working conditions and dangers of inhaling the dust that is found at hydraulic fracturing sites.
These agencies have investigated several hydraulic fracturing sites and found that the airborne dust that is found at these sites contains extremely high levels of silica, which were above the exposure limits that are safe. Exposure to this dust can cause silicosis, a dangerous lung disease.
OSHA has issued this warning to put employers and workers on notice that they must prevent exposure to this dust by ensuring they provide their workers with adequate protection. The report recommends employing different safety precautions such as the use of protective gear and alternative substances other than silica, where feasible.
The Ohio workers’ compensation system is available to anyone who is experiencing medical problems related to an injury at his or her workplace or to the exposure of dangerous chemicals at a workplace. All of an individual’s medical expenses and medical treatment attributable to the workplace injury or exposure is typically covered under this system. If the worker is unable to work for any length of time due to the injury or the exposure, he or she should also be paid out workers’ compensation benefits.
Source: Reuters, “Silica hazard at fracking sites, report says,” Selam Gebrekidan, June 22, 2012