Pond Lehocky’s Occupational Safety Series: 7 common dangers natural gas and fracking workers need to know

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By Kevin E. Harchar 

 

The gas and oil industry continues to evolve as new (and sometimes controversial) methods of procuring natural gas have developed, including hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The Marcellus Shale, a rock formation that stretches from New York to West Virginia, is used for the majority of fracking. In Pennsylvania alone, there are 7,788 active fracking wells1.

Mining, oil and gas extraction jobs are some of the most dangerous, with 142 fatal injuries last year – a 17 percent annual increase2. With more than 700,000 people in the gas and oil extraction industry3, workers need to know the potential on-the-job injuries they may face.

 

GAS WORKERS INFORGRAPHIC1 page 0011. Burns from explosions. Natural gas is incredibly flammable. It is crucial that workers ensure all safety precautions are taken when extracting natural gas. Any ignition source such as cigarette lighters, open flames, lighting or welding tools should be removed from the area. Fire-retardant clothing should also be worn. Drivers who transport gas must be especially cautious, as fatal explosions can easily occur.

2. Back injuries, herniated discs and knee injuries.  Workers may need to crouch and bend to perform certain tasks such as lifting heavy objects, fixing equipment and digging for natural gas. The constant movement can also lead to chronic knee problems over time.  

3. Hand, shoulder and joint injuries. For certain types of gas main or heater repairs, workers repeat intricate muscle movements, which can cause hand, joint and/or shoulder pain after years of performing the same motion.   

4. Broken bones and bruising. Workers who dig for natural gas or to uncover gas mains risk structural collapses. If a hole is not dug properly, it may collapse around the worker, causing broken bones and widespread bruising among other injuries.

5. Injuries from falls. Workers are susceptible to slips and falls from elevated machinery or supplies on the ground. Injuries such as broken bones, head trauma, muscle strains/sprains and in some cases death may occur. 

6. Illness from hazardous chemicals. Fracking and gas extraction involve operators injecting a chemical cocktail at extremely high pressure into shale and other rock formations to make natural gas and petroleum flow freely. Some of the ingredients include the potentially cancer-causing chemicals crystalline silica,benzene, diesel fuel, lead, naphthalene, sulfuric acid and formaldehyde. Other chemicals are unidentified and classified as proprietary or trade secrets, so there may be even more harmful additives in fracking fluid4

6. Motor vehicle accidents. Many gas workers must drive to job sites or to transport natural gas daily. Weather conditions and other drivers on the road lead to accidents. If driving is part of a worker’s job duties, he/she may be covered under workers’ compensation and could have another third-party lawsuit.   

 

If you are an injured gas worker or have been hurt while fracking, you should report your injury immediately to your employer. Having an experienced injury lawyer on your side is crucial to protecting your rights to workers’ compensation.    

 

 

 

If you are a gas worker that has experienced a work injury, click here to chat with us live, or use the contact form below for a free consultation.

 

 

   

1 http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/drilling/

2http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0013.pdf

3 http://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag21.htm

4 http://www.businessinsider.com/scary-chemicals-used-in-hydraulic-fracking-2012-3



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