Hydraulic fracturing, a process that individuals in the oil and gas industry commonly know as “fracking,” is a process through which a worker drills into the ground to create a well. They then pump a mixture of chemicals, water and sand underground at high pressure with the ultimate goal of tapping into and extracting oil and gas reserves. The oil and gas industry is inherently dangerous. However, there are a few unique dangers fracking workers face that are unique to this extraction method.
Data compiled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that one-third of oil and gas workers die in auto accidents while on the job. Many of these incidents occur while transporting drills, sand, chemicals and other equipment necessary to drill wells through residential areas.
Oil and gas workers may also suffer long-term health declines from breathing in the dust, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides and methane emitted into the air at fracking sites. Many of these are carcinogens that have led to workers’ leukemia and other cancer diagnoses.
The chemicals and other substances that frackers pump underground can break down rock, causing these toxic substances to get released into the groundwater. It’s not uncommon for industry workers and area residents who consume this water to experience health declines from drinking it.
There’s also a significant risk of explosions and fires, earthquakes and equipment malfunctions at or around fracking worksites, all of which can injure or maim workers.
Fracking is a relatively new line of work within the oil and gas industry. Researchers only recently started to dedicate more energy to understanding fracking’s implications on both workers’ and residents’ health. This line of work may pose some additional medical risks that researchers have yet to discover. An attorney can advocate for you when you’re hurt or ill, and you want to hold your West Virginia employer accountable for putting you in a dangerous situation on the job.