Our readers in Pittsburgh may be interested in a recent investigation conducted
by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration along with the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The investigation led to
the release of a hazard alert for individuals who work in the hydraulic
Workers in the hydraulic fracturing industry, also known as "fracking,"
use enormous amounts of silica sand mixed with water and chemicals to
break apart rock and release oil and gases. NIOSH and OSHA have discovered
that the levels of silica to which workers in this industry are exposed
are much higher than originally believed. The high levels of silica can
be detrimental to a person's health, and that means injured or ill
employees in the fracking industry could be entitled to
The recent hazard alert states that the following conditions can be caused
by the kind of overexposure to crystalline silica that was discovered
in the study:
- This is the most common condition and usually occurs after 10 to 20 years
- The immediate symptoms are not very noticeable, but the advanced stages
may bring shortness of breath, fatigue, coughing and respiratory failure.
- This occurs after a short period of extensive exposure to high levels of
- The symptoms are similar to chronic silicosis and accelerated silicosis
but in a much more aggravated form.
- This almost always leads to disability if not death.
- This is very similar to classic silicosis but usually occurs after 5 to
10 years of exposure to high levels of silica.
- The symptoms progress much more quickly than classic silicosis.
Employers in the fracking industry should make themselves aware of these
dangers and take the necessary precautions. Any individual who has worked
in fracking and is experiencing these symptoms should keep track of all
medical records related to the illness or injury. Benefit payments may
be available through workers' compensation. After all, there is no
good reason a job-related injury should turn into a financial struggle.
Source: The Legal Examiner, "OSHA: Overexposure to silica a health hazard for workers in hydraulic fracturing
operations," Paul Napoli, June 27, 2012