The process of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is an increasingly popular method of extracting natural gas and oil from far below the Earth’s surface. The increased availability of efficient machinery and technology coupled with the high demand for oil and gas has led to a huge need for people to work in the oil fields and gas fracking sites. Before you sign on, be aware of the risks.
What are the Risks of working in the fracking industry?
On August 16, 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency issued regulations for the natural gas and oil industry under the Clean Air Act due to the many pollutants released into the air during the fracking process. Workers in the industry are routinely exposed to silica as it is a main component of fracking sand used during the gas extraction process. Sand is hauled in by the truck-load and this creates dust that is then inhaled by workers if proper protection is not utilized. The Inhalation of Silica can lead to silicosis, a lung disease, and to lung cancer. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) along with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released a Hazard Alert specifically about the risk of silica inhalation.
Workers often put in 12 to 16 hour days, seven days a week. This leads to fatigue which increases the chances for accidents to happen. Other hazards include transportation related accidents due to the large equipment hauling supplies back and forth, fires and explosions, and reactions to the various chemicals used.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, occupations in the oil and gas extraction industry have a fatality rate that is over seven times higher than the average rate for workers within the United States.