While the oil & gas industry helps the American economy in many different ways, it is also a very dangerous industry that can lead to life-threatening, permanent injuries. The individuals who are employed in this industry are constantly exposed to toxic chemicals, lifting heavy equipment, and using dangerous machinery and tools.
Workers in the gas production industry often sustain life-altering injuries, causing them to be out of work for long periods of time. This can be very stressful and frustrating as your medical bills and daily bills continue to pile up, leading you to wonder how you will get back on your feet again.
The types of injuries that fracking and gas production employees often suffer
If you work in fracking and/or gas production, your workday and hours are likely long. You also most likely spend every day doing intensive, backbreaking labor. Therefore, it is not shocking at all to learn that the risk of life-threatening, catastrophic injuries is high in this industry. Some of the more severe injuries include:
- Crushing injuries: Casing failures in wells is a leading cause of crush injuries, as workers can get trapped. There’s always a risk of explosion, too, which can send materials or equipment flying, easily crushing body parts. Workers can also suffer “caught-between” injuries if they get stuck between equipment, rigs, or machinery.
- Traumatic brain injuries: Slips, trips, and falls cause a significant number of traumatic brain injuries, but workers can also be struck by equipment or tools. Explosions can throw workers through the air, too.
- Amputations: This can be the result of a crushing injury, but workers may also have their limbs severed on site. Even workers who aren’t at a drill site can suffer traumatic amputation.
- Burn injuries: Whether from explosions, fires, or chemicals, employees in the fracking industry are prone to burn injuries. This can be first, second, or third degree burns that often leave scarring and disfigurement.
- Chemical exposure and respiratory injuries: Silica sand and hydrocarbons pose the greatest risk of respiratory damage, and methane the greatest risk of harm from chemical exposure. Inhalation of hydrogen sulfide is another constant risk; inhale enough of it and a worker can suffer convulsions, enter a coma, or even die.
And these are just the life-threatening injuries. Any worker – upstream, midstream, or downstream – can suffer broken bones, serious cuts that allow in debris, eye trauma, hearing loss, or other serious harms.
The real risk of fracking and gas production is long-term
Fracking releases particulate matter into the air. Those particulates can cause severe or even fatal respiratory conditions over time – not just in workers, but in neighborhoods. A study done in 2020 found that as many as 20 people in Pennsylvania died over the course of seven years as a result of inhaling that particulate matter. From University of Binghamton:
The study discovered a correlation between shale gas extraction with particulate matter pollution and mortality in areas where active wells are sited. From 2010 to 2017, the period covered by the study, fracking-related air pollution led to at least 20.11 additional deaths — translated into an economic cost of nearly $149 million. The most affected part of the state was Washington County, which saw an additional 4.26 deaths caused by fracking-related air pollution during those seven years.
Particulate matter with a diameter less than or equal to 2.5 microns, or PM2.5, is associated with cardiovascular diseases and several respiratory ailments, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Sensitive populations — including children, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions — are particularly vulnerable to these health effects.
For get for a moment about the larger implications of pollution, and instead focus on the length of the study. Seven years, the most recent being 2017. In 2017, there were a little over 10,000 fracking wells in PA. As of August 2023, there are just under 12,000 unconventional wells. Between 2017 and 2021, at least 3,000 wells were abandoned and left unplugged.
Why does any of this matter? Because over seven years, about 20 people died just from living near these wells. How bad is it going to be for the men and women who work in and around them every single day? Respirators and N95 masks can help reduce the risk, but no respirator can create a perfect seal 100% of the time.
This is why we say the real risk of fracking will be long-term damage to workers’ respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
What illnesses are associated with fracking?
The following are a few examples of the illnesses and diseases that those who work in the fracking industry may experience:
- Lung and respiratory diseases
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Renal failure
- Autoimmune diseases
- Lung cancer
- Skin cancer
- Bone cancer
- Breast cancer
How to get workers’ compensation in Pittsburgh
Just like any other employee, fracking and gas production employees become injured or develop illnesses on the job and need to know what assistance is available to them. Therefore, if you were hurt while fracking or working in gas production, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. To give yourself your best chance at getting these benefits:
- Report your accident and injury: The state of Pennsylvania gives employees filing for workers’ compensation 120 days to report their injury to their employer. However, it is highly recommended that you report the injury much sooner. The longer you wait, the more hurdles and challenges to getting your benefits may arise.
- Hire a Pittsburgh workers’ compensation lawyer: Right after you let your employer know about your injury, you should begin searching for an experienced and skilled workers’ compensation attorney. At Carmody & Ging, we stand up and fight for employees in the fracking and gas production industry, and we will do everything we can to help you show that your injuries or illnesses are caused by your job. Our workers’ compensation lawyers will guide you through the difficult workers’ compensation process as well as ensure that your questions and concerns are always answered.
- Keep copies of all your documents and records: Once you start working with an attorney, it is crucial that you start documenting everything about the accident, illness, and injuries. Bring copies of your medical records, medical bills, and receipts (if you have them) along with any photos and videos of the incident or your injuries.
The Pittsburgh workers’ compensation lawyers at Carmody & Ging help gas and fracking workers fight for their legal right to receive workers’ compensation benefits. While you are healing and recovering, the last worry that should be on your mind is how you will pay for your medical bills or daily expenses during this tough time. Workers’ compensation benefits will pay for your medical bills and partial wages. However, there is a time limit to secure this benefit, so please call our office or submit our contact form today to start the process.