Hydraulic fracturing (often called “fracking”) is a highly effective method of extracting oil and gas resources. Fracking is achieved by pumping large amounts of fluid hundreds to thousands of feet down a wellbore at extremely high pressure. This fractures underground rock formations, freeing reserves of oil and gas for extraction. Oil and gas companies, including many in the Bakken Oil Field, often prefer fracking to traditional vertical drilling because a fracking well site can gather the resource from a larger surrounding area.
While hydraulic fracturing has proven to be an efficient way to exploit natural resources, it can also be extremely dangerous. Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (OSHA) issued a hazard warning that workers on fracking sites were at risk of exposure to high levels of silica, found in dust particles from hydraulic fracturing sand. Continued exposure can lead to silicosis, a reaction in the lungs that decreases their ability to take in oxygen. Silica has also been linked to several other diseases, including lung cancer.
Oil field workers are also exposed to dangerous conditions when working with equipment that creates enough pressure to break up underground rock formations. In a recent accident at a fracking location 24 miles north of Watford City, ND, Halliburton employee Mike Krajewski, was killed when he turned a valve, causing a pipe to disconnect and hit him in the head. He died instantly from the brain injury. Mike’s job with Halliburton involved pumping fluids into wellbores at high pressures, a task associated with obvious dangers. Mike was an Air Force veteran and father of three daughters who started working in the Bakken oil field last year, hoping to work his way up into a position as a firefighter.