NIOSH researchers find respirable crystalline silica hazard for workers engaged in hydraulic fracturing operations
On April 30, NIOSH researchers presented preliminary data (PDF*) which suggest that gas and oil workers may be exposed to dangerously high levels of respirable crystalline silica while performing hydraulic fracturing operations. The researchers found that nearly half (47%) of the workers sampled were exposed to levels of silica above OSHA’s permissible exposure limits with almost 80% of those sampled exposed above NIOSH’s recommended exposure limits.
The findings were reported by Eric Esswein during a meeting of the Institute of Medicine on The Health Impact Assessment of New Energy Sources: Shale Gas Extraction. The researchers identified seven primary dust generation points, which include refilling/hot loading and release from top hatches, T-belt operations, and the “dragon’s tail.” Esswein also discussed possible means of prevention through design.
Inhalation of respirable crystalline silica particles has long been known to cause silicosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. For more information, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page on Crystalline Silica.