Managing Worker Exposure to Silica-Based Products in Sequences of Shale Reservoir Stimulation OperationsSource: E&P Magazine | 19 August 2014
Employing an occupational and safety management system to shale gas reservoir stimulation operations assures that worker health and safety are considered at each step in the hydraulic fracturing life cycle. Management systems also support the ongoing reassessment that is required as new information is developed about the hazards of new and existing proppants and other chemical hazards, resulting in sustainable health and safety performance.
Exposure to crystalline silica particles of respirable size has been identified as an occupational health hazard associated with hydraulic fracturing operations. When inhaled, respirable-sized particles can enter the gas-exchange regions of the lung, according to a June 2012 hazard alert from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that was titled “Worker Exposure to Silica During Hydraulic Fracturing.” Exposures are typically due to the mechanical handling of large volumes of dry crystalline silica. Future innovations, including the use of nano-enabled proppants and lubricants, may introduce occupational health hazards that have not yet been fully characterized.
Uncertainties exist about exposure risks and the appropriate controls needed to mitigate the potential risks to worker health. These factors prompt the adoption of a robust management system to ensure that worker health and safety are considered at each step in the development, use, and ultimate disposal of silica and other proppant materials.