According to some reports, it is not uncommon for companies operating In
the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to compensate injured workers rather
than file a work comp claim. Despite this evasion, oil and gas related worker
work comp filings have significantly increased since
Among the dangers Bakken field workers face is the lung disease, silicosis.
Since a fracking operation requires 1 to 4 million pounds of finely granulated
sand as a proppant, considerable amount of silica dust gets into the air
and blows about in the wind.
Crews conducting hydraulic fracking operations in the Bakken oil and gas
fields are routinely exposed to the dust that ends up deep in their lungs when they
inhale. Typically, Bakken workers move the sand in dry-bulk trucks and employ
transfer belts to put it into hoppers. Trucks and trains transporting
the sand also generate significant airborne silica dust.
In 2013, NIOSH scientists carried out the first and only
study of gas and oil worker exposure to silica from hydraulic frackingoperations.
Sampling from 11 sites in 5 states including North Dakota took place on
3 consecutive days. The samples captured respirable silica occurring during
a 12-hour job shift for 15 sand-associated work functions.
The study found several jobs that routinely exceeded standard exposure
limits, sometimes 10-20 times in excess. Despite workers having appropriate
respirator equipment, there was not adequate protection because the measured
amount exceeded the effective limit of the mask. The results showed that
transfer belt workers and sand movers had exposure 55 times higher than
the NIOSH recommended limit.
Silica exposure in oil and gas fields such as the Bakken has limited history,
lacks monitoring and has not been a priority for companies. Although this
was a small study, it brings attention to how little is known about effectiveness
of controls such as hazard warnings, training, engineering and personal
protection gear in oil field operations. There are no silica associated
disease reports currently available for the Bakken region.
Silicosis is a significant health hazard in the Bakken oil fields associated
with other diseases such as lung cancer, COPD, TB and kidney and autoimmune
disease. As a result of the study, NIOSH and OSHA have issued a Hazard
Alert which recommends monitoring and exposure reduction.
If you think you have a silica related illness from Bakken oil and gas