Unions urge OSHA to address crystalline silica exposure from ‘fracking’

Washington – The AFL-CIO recently sent a letter to OSHA, NIOSH, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration calling for action to protect workers from crystalline silica exposure during hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking.”

The United Mine Workers of America and United Steelworkers also signed the letter, which cited NIOSH research indicating high levels of crystalline silica exposure among fracking workers.

During fracking, silica sand is combined with water and chemicals and injected into the ground at high pressure to release natural gas. Workers are at risk multiple times during the process, the groups claim.

The letter, dated May 22, also cited NIOSH data showing that between 2003 and 2009, the fatality rate for oil and gas extraction workers was 27.5 deaths per 100,000 workers – more than 7 times the rate for all U.S. workers.

Among several recommendations, the groups urged OSHA and NIOSH to issue a joint hazard alert on fracking and silica, and asked OSHA to develop a new silica standard and National Emphasis Program on fracking.

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