Fracking Workers Face Serious Dangers

Fracking, also referred to as hydraulic fracturing, is a form of drilling in which a mixture of pressured water is used to extract natural gas and oil from deep under the earth. This method has increased in popularity over the past 10 to 15 years.

The process of fracking accounts for close to 7 in 10 of all oil and natural gas wells drilled in the United States.

The fracking boom in the U.S. has been responsible for the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs across the nation. However, there are dangers to this method of oil and natural gas extraction – to workers and those who live in the surrounding communities where these operations are performed. The risks that are present during fracking include every stage of the process – from transportation to well sites and back, chemical exposure during injection, mixing, flow back activities, and the handling of heavy equipment during rig up and down operations.

OSHA statistics indicate that workers in the oil and gas extraction industry sustain a fatality rate that is seven times greater than that experienced by workers in other industries.

A fracking worker may sustain an injury or be killed on-the-job in various ways, including by:

  • Falls
  • Fires and explosions
  • Toxic chemical exposure
  • Impact by an object
  • Being trapped between objects

Flow back operations present a hazard

One of the most serious hazards to workers during and after fracking occurs is when flow back operations are performed. This is when the process fluids come back up to the surface. A significant quantity of the water mixture utilizing the fracking process flows up to the surface and must be collected and removed by workers. This fluid is highly pressurized and may contain elements such as silica sand, mud, rocks, parts, and various chemicals. In a publicized report from 2010, several workers died during flow back operations as a result of their severe exposure to unstable hydrocarbons, which can negatively affect a person’s respiratory function, nervous system, and vision.

Researchers from NIOSH also conducted studies in the field which resulted in the discovery that workers may suffer dangerous exposure to dust containing high levels of crystalline silica during the fracking process. The consequences of breathing in silica over an extended period of time include developing a greater risk for lung cancer, silicosis, autoimmune disease, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and tuberculosis.

In 2013, NIOSH performed a study that discovered workers inspecting flow back tanks during fracking operations were exposed to hazardous levels of benzene which is a toxic hydrocarbon. Exposure to benzene can result in short and long-term health problems, including excess bleeding, bone marrow damage, anemia, greater risk of infection, and cancer.

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At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City gas and oil injury attorneys have more than two decades of experience fighting for injured workers. If you have sustained injuries during fracking operations or other related activities in the field, we are here to help you secure the compensation you deserve. To set up a free consultation, give us a call today at 405.232.1212 or use our contact form.