Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fracking and silica sand: A health and safety hazard

The silica sand used for fracking
puts workers at risk
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos
A work safety alert was recently sounded out in the hydraulic fracturing industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) both reported, after researching oil and gas well sites in five states, that workers were at risk for respiratory disease.

Though the thought that comes to mind with fracking is usually oil and gas, the two federal agencies found unusually high levels of silica sand in 80 percent of the air samples taken on the sites. In fact, the samples revealed that over 30 percent of those samples contained levels of silica that were 10 times higher than safety regulations permit.

Exposure to silica sand dust through inhalation can cause silicosis, a life-threatening lung disease. OSHA and NIOSH suggest these oil and gas companies protect their workers by limiting their exposure to the particles. Respirators and exhaust vents are among some of the solutions proposed by the agencies.

During the fracking process, silica sand is combined with water and chemicals. This fluid is pressurized and then used to help break up shale deposits in the ground, allowing workers access to the oil and natural gas.

Though OSHA and NIOSH still have to conduct testing on the effects of exposure to silica sand, at least one Wyoming company has already tested its effects and implemented safety measures. Knowledge on other companies’ plans is, as of yet, unknown but the Petroleum Association of Wyoming and The Wyoming Oil and Gas Safety Alliance have pledged their cooperation and plan to inform their members of the risks surrounding silica sand.

Do you or someone you know work in fracking? Tell us about your experiences with silica sand and how your company is dealing with the potential risks.


Providing cleaner air

Electrocorp's I-6500 Cyclone Collectors
can extract fine particles, such as silica sand dust,
from the air
OSHA and NIOSH have made several suggestions for improving air quality. Of those recommendations is the use of exhaust vents. 

Electrocorps’s I-6500 with Cyclone Collectors provides an air cleaning option that extracts dust and fine particles from the air through a pre-filter and a HEPA filter. There also activated carbon optionsfor chemicals, odors and gases. We can also manufacture customized units for individual needs.

To speak to one of our IAQ experts about the I-6500 Cyclone Collector or for a customized unit, contact us at 1-866-667-0297.

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