When companies undertake fracking operations in the Bakken, workers can
work injury from silica exposure. The seriousness of injury to the lungs correlates
with the quantity and frequency of the worker’s dust exposure.
Unfortunately, exposure to silica is cumulative – the higher the
total load, the greater the risk is for developing silicosis,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Workers also have a greater chance for developing TB
since silica interferes with the body’s immune response to TB causing germs.
Workers with repeated contact to low levels of silica may show signs of
illness later than workers performing tasks with high dust exposure because
high levels interfere with the lung’s defenses when damaging dust
particles lodge deep in the lungs.
To minimize silica exposure at Bakken oil and gas drilling sites, companies
are responsible for ensuring that their workers are wearing properly fitted
respirators. In addition, companies need to conduct risk assessments in
all areas of operations. When they put new equipment or processes into
place, companies should reassess the potential for exposure.
According to OSHA standards, companies must provide
fit testing for the respirator that the employee will use. Besides matching the make,
model, style and size, the respirator must undergo rigorous qualitative
or quantitative fit testing before setting it to the NIOSH-approved configuration
for operational use.
Having an industrial hygienist evaluate worksite conditions will help company
safety officials put appropriate safety measures in place. Whoever they
engage should a specialize in their industry and possess the proper credentials.
In the Bakken, companies are responsible for providing workers with the
appropriate protective equipment to prevent work injury. Please
contact us for more information.