Osha Final Rule Aims To Reduce Work Injury From Silica Dust Exposure

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 injury, please contact us.