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Although worker safety hazards in the oil and gas extraction industry are well known, there is very little published data regarding occupational health hazards (e.g., types and magnitude of risks for chemical exposures) during oil and gas extraction operations. To address the lack of information, NIOSH requests assistance from oil and gas stakeholders in further characterizing risks for chemical exposures during flowback operations and, as needed, develop and implement exposure controls. This blog briefly describes flowback operations and addresses reports made known to NIOSH of recent worker fatalities related to or located at flowback operations.
NIOSH learned about several worker fatalities associated with flowback operations through media reports, officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and members of the academic community. According to our information, at least four workers have died since 2010 from what appears to be acute chemical exposures during flowback operations at well sites in the Williston Basin (North Dakota and Montana). While not all of these investigations are complete, available information suggests that these cases involved workers who were gauging flowback or...