Those who drill and service oil and gas wells have a number of injury risks. However, they’re also exposed to numerous materials that can be hazardous to breathe.
Those have increased as hydraulic fracturing operations have become more common. They can cause serious respiratory and other health issues if breathed in or touched.
A few of the most dangerous substances
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other safety agencies and groups are always working to assess and take steps to control the dangers to the workers exposed to these materials, which can also be dangerous to the surrounding communities.
Some of these dangers include:
- Airborne respirable crystalline silica, which is present in the sand used during hydraulic fracturing
- Diesel exhaust and particulate matter from equipment and vehicles
- Hydrogen sulfide gas released by oil and gas wells and other hydrogen gases and vapors (HGV)
- Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM), which can contaminate pipes and equipment and affect workers who handle, move and dispose of them
Of course, this is in addition to the dangers oil and gas workers face from temperature extremes (both hot and cold), working in low-oxygen environments, excessive noise and more.
The responsibility of oil and gas companies to keep their workers safe
Oil and gas excavation companies have a duty to their employees, contractors and all workers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) including eye protection, respiratory equipment and hearing protection. They also have a responsibility to educate and train all workers so that they can help protect themselves and each other.
Even those working for large companies aren’t immune from harm. Last year, Exxon Mobil ordered a stand-down of its shale operations throughout the country after two fatalities and another injury (all of them in Texas) and multiple negligence lawsuits.
While serious injuries may get more media attention than illnesses caused by oil and gas extraction operations, they can permanently damage a person’s health or even lead to death. If you are dealing with a work-related illness, it’s important to determine who bears responsibility so that you can seek the compensation you need and deserve.