Preventing Long Term Work Injury From Silica Exposure In The Bakken

When companies undertake fracking operations in the Bakken, workers can experience 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.