Exposure to silica is one of the most widespread OD risks. Repeatedly inhaling crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease that resulted in 46,000 deaths globally in 2013. This is a chronic OD exposure, meaning that it can take many years before silicosis is identified as the cause behind a worker’s symptoms.
Silica exposures may occur during the hydraulic fracturing processes used for oil and gas well development, including the following:
Use water mist for dust suppression and use amended water (e.g., containing chloride and magnesium salts) to reduce dust generation on roads into and at the well site.
Use a less hazardous non-silica proppant (e.g., ceramic and resin-coated).
Use local exhaust ventilation to capture and collect fugitive dust emissions.
Use passive enclosures at points of dust generation (e.g., install stilling curtains around the bottom sides of the sand movers).
Minimize distances between the transfer belt conveyors and blender hoppers.
Replace transfer belts with screw augers on sand movers.
Mandate the use of cam-lock caps for fill ports on sand movers.
Monitor workers to determine their exposure to crystalline silica (e.g., conduct breathing zone air sampling wherever workers are engaged in activities that use “frack” sand).
Use equipment with built-in dust collection systems that pass the material through a filtration system.
Require workers to wear NIOSH-approved respirators. If the respirators are tight-fitting, workers cannot have facial hair (e.g., beards, moustaches) that interferes with the seal against the worker’s face.
Implement engineering controls such as centralized dust collection systems.
VOCs, such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene (often referred to as a group as BTEX), are emitted as vapors from crude oil.
Workers exposed to high levels of benzene in occupational settings may also have an increased occurrence of leukemia.
VOC compounds tend to vaporize and become airborne easily. Vapor and mist may enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, and skin absorption.
At hydraulic fracture oil well sites producing natural gas, use “green completion” to capture the natural gas that escapes
Find and repair leaks, also known as “fugitive emissions,” which can occur at an oil well site.
Route emissions from pneumatic pumps to control devices.
Use automatic flowback sampling devices.
Eliminate visual mud tank inspection by substituting remote sensors.
This material, such as uranium, thorium, and radon, is present in oil and gas-bearing formations, including shale, granite, and sandstone. Employees inhaling NORM over several years could develop bone or other cancers from the exposure.
Workers are exposed by inhaling or ingesting scale particles contaminated with radioactive material, such as radium-226. Radioactive material can become airborne when working with pipe and equipment containing radioactive scale. Workers may encounter this material in the following places:
Workers should thoroughly wash their hands and face after working with contaminated equipment; before eating, drinking, or smoking; and at the end of the day.
Keep the number of personnel in the work area to a minimum.
If possible, seal or wrap all openings in contaminated equipment in plastic.
If repair or cleaning activities might produce dust or loose contamination, have employees wear a respirator appropriate for radioactive particulates.
Conduct repair or cleaning activities in well-ventilated areas, to which access has been restricted to help prevent loose contamination.
During cleanup, use plastic ground covers to contain contaminants.
Decontaminate gloves, respirators, coveralls, and cleaning towels, or properly dispose of them in sealed double bags.
Implement engineering controls such as centralized dust-collection systems to help prevent dust or loose contamination during cleanup.
The noise levels that oil and gas workers are exposed to on the job can result in hearing, impair work performance, and disrupt communication with co-workers and others. Overexposure to noise can also cause cardiovascular and other serious health problems.
Virtually any oil and gas exploration and production operation produces noise that, without the proper safeguards and controls, can affect workers’ health.
Provide and require the use of hearing protection by all employees working with or near generators, power tools, rock drills, heavy equipment, air compressors, trucks, and other noise sources.
Develop and enforce a hearing conservation program that includes noise assessments, engineering controls, audiometric monitoring of workers' hearing, appropriate use of hearing protection, worker education, recordkeeping, and program evaluation.
Diesel exhaust contains toxic air contaminants and is regarded as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
Workers are normally exposed to diesel exhaust from vehicles present at work sites and diesel fuel-powered generators, pumps, welders, and other process equipment.
Pipe diesel exhaust away from work areas.
Perform routine maintenance on diesel engines.
Designate areas that are off-limits for vehicle traffic and engine operation.
Use cleaner-burning engines.
Use special fuels or fuel additives, such as biodiesel.
Install diesel-oxidation catalysts.