Hydraulic fracturing, more widely known as fracking, is a type of drilling technique in which a pressured water mixture is used to extract oil and natural gas from deep underground. Fracking has become increasingly common over the past decade. According to a study from 2014, around 15 million Americans have lived within a mile of a fracking well and an estimated 35,000 wells are fracked each year in the U.S.
The fracking boom is alive and well in Texas where it has led to the creation of more than 100,000 jobs in the Barnett Shale alone. Unfortunately, there are a number of fracking dangers that create risks to surrounding communities and workers. The fracking process involves risks at every stage including transportation to and from well sites, handling heavy equipment during rig-up and rig-down, and chemical exposure during mixing, injection, and flow-back operations.
According to OSHA, the fatality rate of workers in the oil and gas extraction industry is seven times greater than for other industries. Fracking workers can be injured or killed in the following types of accidents:
- Vehicle crashes
- Struck by or caught in between objects
- Explosions and fires
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
Hazards During Flow-back Operations
Flow-back operations, which is when processed fluids return to the surface during and after fracking occurs, present the greatest amount of hazards to workers. In 2010, at least four workers died during flow back operations because of acute toxic exposure to volatile hydrocarbons, which can impact vision, respiratory function, and the nervous system.
Anywhere from 10-30 percent of the water mixture used in the fracking process flows back to the surface and must be collected and disposed of by workers. The fluid that flows back to the surface is highly pressurized and may contain rocks, mud, parts, silica sand, and a variety of chemicals.
NIOSH researchers conduct field studies in 2012, which led to the discovery that workers may be exposed to dust with high levels of crystalline silica throughout various stages of fracking. Workers who breathe in silica over long periods of time are at a greater risk of developing silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney and autoimmune disease.
Another NIOSH study conducted in 2014 found that workers at fracking sites were exposed to potentially dangerous levels of benzene when inspecting flow back tanks. Benzene is a toxic hydrocarbon and exposure to it can lead to both short-term and long-term health issues including anemia, bone marrow damage, cancer, excessive bleeding, and a greater risk of infection.
How Our Houston Work Accident Lawyers Can Help
If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness, contact The Houston work accident lawyers at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. for help. We have extensive experience helping injured workers in a wide variety of industries fight for the compensation they deserve. Our goal is to help you recover the financial losses you sustained because of your work-related accident so you have the resources you need to move forward with your life.
Contact us today at (281) 283-8500 to schedule your free consultation. There is no financial risk to you. We do not charge any fees unless we obtain compensation for you.