The United States is the number one oil and gas producer in the world, due to advancements in technology with the extraction of natural gas from shale formations. The shale gas production rose from two percent to 23 percent over the decade from 2000 to 2010. Relevant workers migrated to oil-rich states like North Dakota, which has resulted in a low unemployment rate of 2.8 percent.
While the United States continues to benefit from shale gas production, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) continue to raise concerns about the safety of gas and oil workers.
OSHA reported 823 worker deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry from 2003 to 2010. That death rate was about seven times greater than all other industries, with hazards ranging from chemical exposures to vehicle crashes.
What is “Fracking” or Hydraulic Fracturing?
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the process of drilling deep beneath the Earth’s surface to crack, or fracture, rock formations to access oil and natural gas deposits. The process dates back to the 1940s; however, its application increased considerably with the discovery of natural gas from shale formations in states like North Dakota, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming, Texas, and Montana.
What are Some of the Potential Health Hazards?
Gas and oil workers that extract natural gas from shale formations are exposed to safety hazards and potential injuries from the likes of silica sand exposure, vehicle accidents, explosions and fires, and exposure to chemicals.
The long-term health effects of silica exposure on workers can be fatal. For example, breathing silica dust can lead to lung cancer and fatal respiratory diseases.
Workers work at night and often fall victim to vehicle accidents. Roadway traffic at fracking sites is high, due to deliveries of water. Fracking requires more than two to five million gallons of water per well.
Oil and gas workers work with highly-flammable vapors, which are released from wells near ignition sources like welding tools, frictional heat, cigarettes, and other open flames. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 53 deaths as a result of explosions and 38 from fires between 2003 and 2008.
Gas and oil workers are exposed to harmful chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, which is released during drilling when fracking. BLS reported 60 deaths as a result of hydrogen sulfide exposure from 2001 to 2010.
What are Strategies to Ensure Worker Safety?
Developing a safety program around worker health safety hazards is the best way to ensure worker safety.
OSHA recommends using dust-collection systems to significantly reduce silica exposure and the threat of respiratory diseases.
Southwestern Energy has taken the lead in vehicle safety by consolidating resources, constructing above-ground water pipelines instead of trucking in water, and eliminating 200 to 250 trucks per site.
Mandating gas and oil workers to wear fire-resistant and retardant clothing to reduce injuries and deaths related to explosions and fires is another strategy recommended to ensure worker safety.
For chemical exposure, OSHA recommends monitoring hydrogen sulfide and other chemical concentrations, as well as more thorough worker training.
Wilmington Worker’s Compensation Lawyers of McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Represent Injured Gas and Oil Workers
If you are a gas or oil worker who has been injured hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” contact the Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC for legal representation.
Our lawyers understand the stress and uncertainty that follow an accident that causes you harm. Call 302-888-1221 or contact us online for a free initial consultation. Conveniently located in Wilmington, Delaware, we represent clients throughout Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.