Dan Neal, ESPC
(Washington D.C.) – Hydraulic fracturing technology – also known as fracking – exposes workers to dangerous silica dust, a workplace safety expert said Tuesday during hearings on new standards before the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“Health and safety are critical to my Wyoming friends and neighbors who work to power the nation,” said Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center in a news release. The ESPC operates the Wyoming Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (WYCOSH). “Exposure to silica and the risk of developing silicosis and related diseases is a significant hazard related to hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas business. Strong oversight is needed in an industry that has failed to provide safe and healthy work sites,” he said.
Fracking, which uses water and sand to open shale formations to extract oil and gas, is already controversial because of potential environmental damage to air, land and water resources. It is just one of several industries – including construction, foundries, glassmaking and others – in which workers are routinely exposed to high levels of airborne dust. Exposure to silica dust, according to experts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), can lead to silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, airways diseases, and autoimmune disorders
Neal was among a panel of workplace safety experts who spoke at the hearing, including:
• Bill Kojola, an industrial hygienist, representing the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH)
• Peter Dooley, a health and safety project consultant for National COSH
• Javier Garcia Hernandez of the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPOSH)
OSHA is hearing testimony about landmark new regulation, the first proposed by the agency in many years, which would limit exposure of workers to silica dust. The proposal is for a new limit of 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air space, a standard first recommended by the NIOSH in 1974.
– National Council for Occupational Safety and Health
Images used with permission