Hazards associated with fracking

People with experience in operations using hydraulic fracturing to extract oil from the shale deep beneath Texas are probably familiar with some of the risks everyone on the site is exposed to. According to Safety+Health magazine, these dangers are causing some concern for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 

People who are newer to the job have a much higher risk of death. In fact, more than half of the on-the-job deaths in the industry are workers with less than one year of experience. The hazards for these short-service workers can be addressed and mitigated by programs that help transition them into their jobs. 

Truck traffic can be dangerous for those driving; vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of death in the industry. However, the vehicles pose a serious risk to those around them, too. Often, operations begin and end in the dark, increasing the chances of being crushed, struck by or caught between trucks and heavy equipment.

OSHA has identified many other operational hazards to workers, including the following:

  • Power lines and stray voltage
  • Equipment failure
  • Pressure control
  • Lifting/rigging
  • Control system failure
  • Erosion failures and leaks

Hazardous conditions often also include explosions, fires, falls, confined spaces and chemical exposures. Oversight may be lacking at well sites because there are so many smaller operations, rather than a single large facility where safety procedures can be strictly enforced.  

Exposure to chemicals and other harmful substances is another problem that can cause serious health conditions and death, OSHA notes. One of these substances is respirable silica dust, which can permanently damage the lungs even after short exposure times. Employers should test the air quality and provide workers with respirators when silica levels are above the OSHA standard.

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