Sheila Schulmeyer

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Compliance Assistance. Permian Basin STEPS. Respirable Silica Exposure in Hydraulic Fracturing. Introduction. Hydraulic Fracturing used to stimulate well production in the oil and gas industry.. . ID: 402440 Download Presentation

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Sheila Schulmeyer

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Sheila Schulmeyer

Compliance Assistance

Permian Basin STEPS

Respirable Silica Exposure in Hydraulic Fracturing



Hydraulic Fracturing used to stimulate well production in the oil and gas industry.



Together have been investigating worker safety and health hazards in oil and gas extraction, including chemical exposure during hydraulic fracturing .


Recent NIOSH Field Study

Identified that large quantities of silica sand are used during fracturing.

Transporting, moving, and refilling silica sand into and through sand movers along transfer belts, and into blender hoppers can release dusts containing silica into the air.

Workers can be exposed if they breathe the dust into their lungs.


Health Hazards of Silica

Hydraulic fracturing sand contains up to 99 % silica.

Breathing silica can cause silicosis which is a lung disease where lung tissue around trapped silica particles reacts, causing inflammation and scarring which reduces the lung’s ability to take in oxygen.


Consequences of Silica Overexposure

Can cause lung cancer


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Kidney and autoimmune disease


Symptoms of Silicosis

Chronic/classic silicosis – the most common type which occurs after 10-20 years of moderate to low exposures to


crystalline silica. Symptoms may or may not be obvious so chest x-rays are needed to determine lung damage.


Symptoms (cont)

Accelerated silicosis can occur after 5-10 years of high exposures. Similar to chronic but with more rapid progression.

Acute silicosis occurs after only a few months or a few years following exposures to extremely high levels of respirable crystalline silica and have symptoms of severe shortness of breath, weakness, and weight loss.


What Can Be Done to Protect Workers?

Reduce silica exposure by using alternative proppants (e.g., sintered bauxite, ceramics, resin-coated sand) where feasible and providing the employer also evaluates the health hazards associated with them.

If safe proppants are not feasible, then employers need to monitor worker exposures.


Monitor the Air

Collect respirable dust samples to determine which jobs expose workers above the exposure limits.

Employers should consult with a trained occupational safety and health professional, such as a certified industrial hygienist, or contact OSHA’s free on-site consultation service if your company qualifies.


Levels above the PEL

If samples indicate that levels are above the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), employers must take actions to reduce worker exposures.

Both OSHA and NIOSH recommend that employers take the actions to keep worker exposures below the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL)


Recommended Actions

Improve existing engineering controls and safe work practices:

Short Term work practices and procedural changes that can be implemented quickly:

Mandate the capping of unused fill ports on sand hoppers

Reduce the drop height between the sand transfer belt and T-belts and blender hoppers

Limit the number of workers, and the time workers must spend in areas where dust and silica levels are elevated.


Recommended Actions (cont)

Consider ways to perform dusty operations remotely

Apply fresh water to roads and around the well site

Enclose points where dust is released

Use enclosed cabs or booths

Use local exhaust ventilation

Replace transfer belts with screw augers on sand movers in new designs or retrofits.


When Engineering and Work Practice Controls Are Not Feasible

Provide respiratory protection when it is needed to protect workers.

Need a respiratory protection program (CFR 1910.134)

Use appropriate NIOSH approved respirators:

Minimum N95

If level is 10 times the PEL; full-face piece or better yet, full-face powered air-purifying (PAPR) provides more protection and comfort.


Provide Training and Information about the hazards of silica and other chemicals

By law, employers must provide training and information to workers in a manner and language that the worker understands.

Prepare and implement a written hazard communication program.

Provide workers access to Safety Data Sheets on silica sand and other hazardous chemicals.


Consider medical monitoring for workers who are exposed to silica

As part of its National Emphasis Program on Silica, OSHA recommends that employers medically monitor all workers who may be exposed to silica dust at or above one-half the PEL. Recommended tests include:

A medical exam that focuses on the respiratory system

A chest x-ray evaluated by a qualified professional


Medical Monitoring (cont)

OSHA recommends that these tests be repeated every three years if the employee has less than 15 years of silica exposure, every two years if the employee has 15-20 years of exposure, and every year if the employee has 20 or more years of exposure.


Guidelines for Minimizing Respirable Silica Exposure in Hydraulic Fracturing

Guidelines developed by the Silica Focus Group (Interim Controls Workgroup)

Copies are available at the back of the room as well as the OSHA-NIOSH Hazard Alert.

If you want an electronic copy, please e-mail Sheila Schulmeyer at

and she will send it to you.


Eleven parts to these Guidelines:

1. Develop a written plan to describe company actions to reduce or prevent respirable silica exposure:

Prep for work involving crystalline silica

Monitoring requirements

Work practices and procedures to reduce exposure

Respiratory protection requirements

Decontamination/hygiene requirements

Inspection process


Guidelines (cont)

2. Inform management about silica hazards

Sources of silica

Exposure controls

Respiratory protection program requirements

Actions to reduce or eliminate exposure

3. Conduct & document silica exposure awareness

Formal classroom; job/hazard safety analysis; pre-job safety meetings; proper respirator care and methods used to reduce or prevent exposure.


Guidelines (cont)

4. Identify through signage or training, the seven points of generation identified by NIOSH and equipment-specific potential exposure zones

5. Identify the proppant being used during the pre-job safety meeting and review appropriate MSDS/SDS prior to each job.

6. Post signage: “Respiratory Protection Required” or “Potential Silica Exposure” in appropriate languages near work areas.


Guidelines (cont)

7. Limit non-essential workers in potential exposure zones

8. Ensure all workers who must wear respirators are provided the correct NIOSH certified respirator and are medically cleared, trained and fit-tested.

9. Require workers to wash or clean their hands and face prior to eating, drinking, smoking or leaving the location.


Guidelines (cont)

10. Provide cleaning instruction for contaminated clothing and PPE in addition to cleaning their face and hands.

If silica cannot be removed from clothing then provide area for workers to change into clean clothes at the end of their shift.

11. Clean enclosed areas where workers congregate such as trailers and dog houses if they become contaminated with silica dust and use HEPA vacuums or wet-based cleaning



Additional Tools

Last page of the guidelines


many items to help you further.

Lists entities that can help: (OSHA, ASSE, NIOSH, National STEPS.

Be sure to contact your insurance carrier to see if they can provide you with Industrial Hygiene monitoring and other services.

Contact your local OSHCON for help.

Private companies and consultants can provide help for a fee.


El Paso/LubbockFatality/Catastrophe StatsFY12

68 accidents/events (reported to OSHA)

19 Non-work related deaths (no inspections)

37 work-related deaths and injuries (inspected)

15 of these were oilfield work-related (with 14 fatalities and




Compared to FY11



9 of those were in the oil and gas industry




information has been developed by an OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialist and is intended to assist employers and employees as they strive to improve workplace health and safety. While attempting to thoroughly address specific topics

[or hazards]

, it is not possible to include discussion of everything necessary to ensure a healthy and safe working environment in a presentation of this nature. This information is as a tool for addressing workplace hazards, rather than an exhaustive statement of an employer’s legal obligations, which are defined by statutes, regulations, and standards. Likewise, to the extent that this information references practices or procedures that may enhance health or safety, but which are not required by a statute, regulation, or standard. This information does not create additional legal obligations. Over time, OSHA may modify rules and interpretations in light of new technology, information, or circumstances. To keep apprised of such developments, or to review information on a wide range of occupational safety and health topics, please visit OSHA’s website at:








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