June 22, 2012

A Breath of Fresh Air for Hydraulic Fracturing Workers 
 
Public Citizen Applauds OSHA and NIOSH for Issuing a Joint Hazard Alert for Appropriate Protections From Silica Exposure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Since 1997, the American workplace has been left with no direction for appropriate protections regarding crystalline silica. Now, long-awaited guidance for protections from exposure to crystalline silica for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) workers will help those in the industry breathe a little easier, Public Citizen said today. In response in part to letters from Public Citizen, union representatives and others, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have issued a hazard alert for workers who toil in the fracking industry. The alert states that employers must ensure that workers are properly protected from overexposure to crystalline silica.

Exposure to crystalline silica has been closely associated to the respiratory disease silicosis and many other health issues, such as tuberculosis, lung cancer and kidney disease. Crystalline silica and its effects can be found in many industries, such as construction, foundry and metal work. Crystalline silica is one of the main components of the fracking process, and it has been reported that up to 4 million pounds of crystalline silica sand is needed in the production of one fracking well.

“Today’s release of the hazard alert is much welcome,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Finally, workers will be able to better protect themselves from the hazards of fracking.”

Added Lisa Gilbert, acting director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, “Public Citizen is happy to see OSHA and NIOSH responding to our concerns and beginning to take appropriate steps to mitigate the hazards surrounding crystalline silica for fracking workers. The betterment of working conditions is an achievement that should be celebrated.”

OSHA began updating its rules for crystalline silica in 1997. In a June 5, 2012, letter, Public Citizen asked OSHA and NIOSH to issue a joint hazard alert. Public Citizen also asked OSHA to shed light on White House delays to a new silica dust standard, and asked the Mine Safety and Health Administration to identify and evaluate the mines and quarries that are mining and processing crystalline silica sand and assess mine workers exposures to crystalline silica at those facilities