Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Worker Exposure to Silica Significant During Hydraulic Fracturing

Silicosis
Silicosis (Photo credit: Mr. Ducke)
Just read the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH's) blog regarding "Worker Exposure to Crystalline Silica during Hydraulic Fracturing".  Obviously, environmental concerns regarding this type of work are being fought in New York on what seems likely a daily or weekly basis.  Usually the arguement for hydraulic fracturing is, job creation and of course energy independence.  However, it is interesting how worker safety is rarely discussed when we talk about hydraulic fracturing.  This study done by NIOSH and discussed on their blog obviously discusses the need to ensure that workers are protected from being overexposed to respirable crystalline silica dust.  Overexposure to respirable crystalline silica dust can lead to the development of the uncurable respiratory disease silicosis, in addition to other diseases.    The typical view that filtering facepiece and half-mask respirators could protect the workers, according to the blog is not sufficient to protect the workers.  Meaning engineering, work practice controls, and administrative controls need to be implemented, making the process more complicated.
Since New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) is working on drafting regulations for hydraulic fracturing, we hope they also take into account what is needed to protect worker safety on these sites as well as what is needed to protect the environment.
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