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OSHA and NIOSH Issue Hazard Alert on Hydraulic Fracking

Posted in on Thu, Jul 12, 2012

From OSHA’s Office of Outreach Services and Alliances –

OSHA and NIOSH have issued a hazard alert on protecting workers in hydraulic fracturing operations from silica exposure.  This hazard alert, developed in consultation with industry and other stakeholders, meets the Obama administration’s focus on ensuring that this important resource continues to be developed safely and responsibly.

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a process used to stimulate well production in the oil and gas industry. It is not a new process, but its use has increased significantly in the last 10 years because of new horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracking (or “completions”) technologies that improve access to natural gas and oil deposits. It involves pumping large volumes of water and sand into a well at high pressure to fracture shale and other tight formations, allowing oil and gas to flow into the well. 

NIOSH’s recent field studies show that workers may be exposed to dust with high levels of respirable crystalline silica during hydraulic fracturing.  This hazard alert discusses the health hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing, particularly worker exposures to silica in the air.  The alert states that employers must ensure that workers are properly protected from overexposure to silica. The alert describes how a combination of engineering controls, work practices, protective equipment, and product substitution, where feasible, along with worker training, can protect workers who are exposed to silica. Engineering controls and work practices provide the best protection for workers, according to the alert.

For more information, please see:

  • OSHA News Release,”OSHA and NIOSH issue hazard alert on ensuring workers in hydraulic fracturing operations have appropriate protections from silica exposure” (June 21, 2012).

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