On March 24th, OSHA publicized the final rule to reduce
work injury and improve protection for workers, including Bakken oil field workers,
who face exposure to respirable silica dust. Limiting exposure will help
prevent silicosis, lung cancer, obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney
disease in Bakken workers.
OSHA officials maintain that 2.3 million workers are at risk of harmful
silica dust exposure and estimate that the new rule will save over 600
lives annually, forestall 900 plus new cases of silicosis and result in
a yearly net benefit of $7.7 billion.
Although the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the
American Petroleum Institute argued that the burdensome rule will have
dire effects on the economic well-being of companies large and small,
the final rule grants the oil and gas fracking industry in the Bakken
and other regions a five-year period for implementation. Furthermore,
OSHA says it will assist companies with implementing the new standard
claiming that companies should easily adjust to it because there is affordable
equipment for control and entrapment of silica dust.
The final rule limits the permitted exposure (PEL) in oil and gas fracturing
operations such as the Bakken to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air
over an eight-hour shift.
In addition, the rule requires Bakken fracturing companies to retain records
of employees’ silica exposures and provide
medical exams for highly exposed workers every three years.
OSHA will stagger compliance deadlines to make sure that employers in the
Bakken and other gas and oil drilling regions have adequate time for installing
new engineering controls.
The latest action marks the Obama administration’s
second effort in recent months to minimize a long-established workplace hazard.
Last August, OSHA proposed reducing workers’ beryllium exposure
to 10% of current levels.
As secretary of labor, Thomas Perez stated “one of the basic bargains
we make is that every working person should come home safely at the end
of the day.” If workplace safety issues caused your Bakken work