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Safety officials issue alert on silica exposure in hydraulic fracturing

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a hazard alert on June 21, 2012, to ensure employers with hydraulic fracturing businesses take the necessary steps to keep workers safe from the effects of silica dust exposure, including providing the appropriate safety products. 

The alert came after discussions with stakeholders, and meets the Obama Administration's plan to continue developing shale gas safely and responsibly.

"Hazardous exposures to silica can and must be prevented. It is important for employers and workers to understand the hazards associated with silica exposure in hydraulic fracturing operations and how to protect workers," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "OSHA and NIOSH are committed to continuing to work with the industry and workers to find effective solutions to address these hazards."

Exposure to silica sand dust can lead to the lung disease silicosis, which causes inflammation and scarring, reducing the lungs' ability to absorb oxygen. To keep hydraulic fracturing workers safe from silica exposure and comply with OSHA's standards, provide appropriate ventilation, engineering controls, and safety products, including respiratory protection.