OSHA, NIOSH issue silica alert on ‘fracking’

Washington – Hydraulic fracturing operations pose a silica hazard to workers, and employers should take steps to prevent exposure, OSHA and NIOSH stated in a jointly issued hazard alert.

Induced hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as “fracking,” is a process in which large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressure into a well opening to force gas or oil to flow out.

A NIOSH study previously identified silica overexposure as a health hazard to workers in fracking operations. Crystalline silica is a major component of the sand used in fracking, and several points in the fracking process can expose workers to silica dust, which can cause the deadly lung disease silicosis.

The alert, released June 21, describes employers’ responsibilities to protect workers from silica overexposure and suggests a variety of engineering controls, work practices and protective equipment.

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