Oil and Gas Extraction

Participating core and specialty programs: Center for Direct Reading and Sensors, Engineering Controls, Prevention through Design, Small Business Assistance, Surveillance and Translation Research

Employers, professional associations, manufacturers, and workers use NIOSH information to reduce silica-induced respiratory diseases among oil and gas extraction workers.

  Health Outcome Research Focus Worker Population Research Type
A Silica-related respiratory diseases Silica exposure during hydraulic fracturing Well servicing contractors Intervention
B Silica-related respiratory diseases Silica exposures other than hydraulic fracturing Drilling and servicing contractors Basic/etiologic

Intervention

C Silica-related respiratory diseases Potential data sources for burden of lung disease and early indicators of lung disease (e.g., lung function decline) All oil and gas extraction workers Surveillance Research

Basic/etiologic

Activity Goal 5.10.1 (Basic/Etiologic Research): Conduct basic/etiologic research to better understand exposures to silica other than hydraulic fracturing and their link to respiratory disease among oil and gas extraction workers.

Activity Goal 5.10.2 (Intervention Research): Conduct studies to develop and assess the effectiveness of interventions to prevent silica exposure and related respiratory diseases among oil and gas extraction workers.

Activity Goal 5.10.3 (Surveillance Research): Conduct surveillance research to explore potential data sources to assess burden of lung disease and early indicators of lung disease among oil and gas extraction workers.

Burden

NIOSH scientists identified respirable crystalline silica during hydraulic fracturing as a significant exposure hazard [NIOSH 2012]. NIOSH has reported that almost 80% of oil and gas extraction (OGE) workers sampled were exposed to greater than the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) of 0.05 mg/m3 respirable crystalline silica [NIOSH 2012]. Respirable crystalline silica can cause silicosis (a fibrotic lung disease), COPD, lung cancer, increased susceptibility to tuberculosis and other conditions [NIOSH 2002]. Of these, statistically significant increases in proportional mortality ratio (PMR) in OGE workers (years 1999, 2003–2004, and 2007–2010) have been documented for COPD (PMR 112), malignancy of the respiratory system (PMR 109), and malignancy of the trachea, bronchus, and lung (PMR 107) [NIOSH 2015]. Although the PMR for silicosis was not increased based on all OGE workers, it was significantly increased for extractive occupations (PMR 2161) and first line supervisors of construction and extraction occupations (PMR 714) [NIOSH 2015].

Need

While field studies are ongoing, much more work remains to fully characterize respiratory hazards to workers in the phases of OGE operations outside of hydraulic fracturing. Determining worker exposure levels is important for selecting the right type of control measures, including engineering controls and respiratory protection, and feedback received from stakeholders indicates that continued exposure assessment and intervention effectiveness studies are the most important research to conduct in order to reduce exposures to respirable hazards on OGE worksites. Improving our ability to assess and track the burden of respiratory disease in OGE workers is also important for setting priorities and evaluating progress. NIOSH holds several key advantages for performing this work or undertaking projects in partnership with extramural partners (1) NIOSH has access to companies, workers and worksites through formal partnerships with oil and gas companies; (2) NIOSH has established effective collaboration with stakeholders via the NORA Oil and Gas Sector Council and through an OSHA Alliance; and (3) NIOSH has the equipment, experienced researchers, protocols, and scientific integrity to complete this work.

NIOSH [2002]. Health effects of occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-129, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2002-129/pdfs/2002-129.pdfCdc-pdf

NIOSH [2012]. OSHA/NIOSH hazard alert: worker exposure to silica during hydraulic fracturing. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2012-166, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2012-166/

NIOSH [2015]. National Occupational Mortality Surveillance (NOMS). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noms/chart.html

Page last reviewed: April 24, 2018