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What can the Hydraulic Fracturing Industry Learn about Worker Protection from Respirable Crystalline Silica from the Pioneering Work of NIOSH & NISA?

Fri, 02/14/2014 - 14:59 -- Donny Beaver

Pioneering work by NIOSH and the National Industrial Sand Association (NISA) over the last 35+ years helped substantially reduce worker exposures to respirable silica.  NISA's Silicosis Prevention Program coupled with the NIOSH "Dust Control Handbook" offer time-tested ways to protect workers and bystanders alike from silica dust in mines.

However, a major gap exists between worker silicosis prevention programs developed by NIOSH & NISA and the other silica sand end-user companies (construction, foundries, hydraulic fracturing, etc.)  The chasm between the sand mining industry and its end users boils down to one word...."mobility."

  1. Silica sand mines are domiciled in one place for decades......hydraulic fracturing and construction companies are always on the move
  2. Equipment in silica sand mining is primarily on fixed used in completions & construction are on wheels & skids for rapid deployment
  3. Many dust-containment and control ideas that work well in an anchored sand mine do not work well in perpetual-motion industries

Careful analysis of the NIOSH & NISA programs also reveals the following:

  • Many of the tools, techniques and programs have direct and immediate applicability to the oil & gas and other silica-sand consuming industries
  • Some ideas advanced by NIOSH/NISA require special adaptation or re-engineering to serve highly-mobile end users like completions & construction
  • Most importantly, much of the collective work of NIOSH/NISA sparks innovative and new ideas for the roving silica sand end-user market

Therefore, the need exists to not only transmit and adapt existing concepts from the stationary silica sand mines to mobile contractors, but also to develop breakthrough ideas for silica sand worker protection in these nomadic industries.

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