Researchers Unveil Ways To Reduce Environmental, Health Risks of Shale Gas Extraction

Source: West Virginia University | 30 June 2014

A new study by researchers at West Virginia University offers 10 recommendations for reducing the environmental and human health effects associated with horizontal drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process.

The recommendations address air, noise, and light pollution; water management; and engineering flaws associated with horizontal gas well development and completion.

The study, titled Practical Measures for Reducing the Risk of Environmental Contamination in Shale Energy Production, is co-authored by Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, John Quaranta, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Michael McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.

Gas extraction from shale gas formations has been made possible by recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology. In the eastern United States, the Marcellus formation gas play is one of the nation’s major natural gas reserves and, in West Virginia alone, nearly 3,000 horizontal wells have been developed since 2008.

While rapid adoption of these methods has led to a surge in natural gas production in the United States, it has also increased public concern about its environmental and human health effects.

“These facilities are often located within a few hundred meters of homes and farms, many of which are supplied by shallow water wells,”  Ziemkiewicz said. “As a result, many of the public’s concerns focus on air and groundwater pollution as well as light and noise associated with horizontal drilling and well completion. This study was initiated largely due to these public concerns.”

Ziemkiewicz, along with the other researchers, conducted a thorough review of environmental literature relevant to shale gas development and examined more than 15 Marcellus shale facilities in northern West Virginia.

NIOSH Seeks Help To Characterize Risks During Chemical Flowback

Source: OSHA | 16 June 2014

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is requesting assistance from oil and gas stakeholders to better characterize the types and magnitude of risks for exposing workers to volatile chemicals during oil and gas extraction. NIOSH is also seeking recommendations for developing and implementing exposure controls.

A new blog on NIOSH’s website summarizes flowback operations, addresses related reports of recent worker deaths, and identifies preliminary recommendations to reduce the potential for hazardous exposures. NIOSH is focusing interest on this subject after learning about several worker deaths associated with flowback operations through media reports, OSHA officials, and members of the academic community.

Health Effects Institute Creates Committee To Examine Effects of Unconventional Oil and Gas Development

Source: Health Effects Institute | 19 May 2014

In response to a growing need to improve the understanding of potential effects of recent increases in gas and oil development, independent research organization Health Effects Institute (HEI) has convened a special committee of experts to develop a strategic plan to guide future research on the potential health and environmental impacts of unconventional oil and gas development in the Appalachian Basin.

This initiative, supported by a number of foundations in the region, aims to produce a summary appraisal of what we know today by late 2014, and a strategic plan to answer key questions by the middle of 2015.

Colorado Legislative Committee OKs Oil and Gas Health Impact Study

Source: Denver Post | 2 April 2014

A plan for a detailed analysis on the potential health impacts of oil and gas development on the Front Range was approved on 1 April by a state legislative committee.

The analysis, to be done by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will cover six Front Range counties and cost an estimated USD 700,000.

“Fear is driving communities to bans and moratoriums, and fear shouldn’t be the motivation,” said Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, sponsor of the bill that creates the study.

Four municipalities and Boulder County have adopted bans or moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing, a key technique in drilling.

Under the bill, the state health department will review existing health studies and conduct a health survey among randomly selected residents.

Health and Safety at Work: Companies Shift Attitudes

Source: Safe to Work | 3 March 2014

The approach to occupational health and safety is changing for the better all over the world.

Companies are shifting from a reactive attitude to a conscious management of operational issues, a prelude to the development of a real corporate culture of occupational health and safety.

These are the findings of an international survey conducted by DNV GL—Business Assurance and the research institute GFK Eurisko on more than 3,860 professionals from businesses in different industries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

Health & Safety Management

Managing health and safety at work has become an integrated part of today’s corporate strategy. More than 90% of people surveyed agree, and 76% state they even implement an ad hoc policy, above and beyond what is required by law and regulations.

The bigger the corporation the higher the application rate, but, surprisingly, 70% of small firms adopt specific approaches, too.

Workers Need More Protection From Silica Dust, Report Finds

Source: US National Library of Medicine | 28 January 2014

More action is needed to reduce illness and death among the millions of Americans exposed to silica dust at work, according to a new report.

It has long been known that silica—a natural substance found in most rocks, sand, and clay—causes the lung disease silicosis, and evidence has mounted in recent decades that silica causes lung cancer, said report coauthor Kyle Steenland, of the School of Public Health at Emory University.

“Current regulations have substantially reduced silicosis death rates in the United States, but new cases of silicosis continue to be diagnosed,” Steenland said.

Third Fatigue Management Workshop Held in Brazil

Source: IPIECA | 18 December 2013

IPIECA and the International Oil and Gas Producers Association held a workshop on managing fatigue in the oil and gas industry from 11–12 November 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The workshop was hosted by Petrobras and had more than 60 participants from operating and service companies, regulators, fatigue consultants, and modelers as well as academics and representatives from other industries. Excessive human fatigue can have significant adverse outcomes on individual safety, health, and productivity and, in safety-critical industries, fatigue can contribute to major incidents.

Career Spotlight: Health and Safety Engineer

Source: Rigzone | 6 December 2013

For anyone interested in a well-paying, challenging, and rewarding oil and gas job that offers opportunities for relocation and comes with a lot of responsibility, one need look no further than a position falling under the category of health, safety, and environment (HSE).

There are several different positions covering a variety of industries under HSE. A health and safety engineer within the oil and gas industry plays a critical role in preventing mishaps, keeping workers healthy and injury-free, and, in general, helping to keep operations running smoothly and safely.

The position offers a number of challenges, including the need to prevent fires, explosions and emissions of contaminants into the workplace and atmosphere. They also map out ways to reduce a company’s emissions of carbon and to reduce or prevent work-related illnesses of company employees.

Beyond the moral obligations that companies have to workers and the environment in which they operate, there are potential legal ramifications and other financial concerns associated with an unsafe working environment, such as increased sick leave, employee turnover, the payment of disability benefits, and increased health care costs.

UK Report Sees Low Public Health Risk From Shale Gas Hydraulic Fracturing

Source: Reuters | 1 November 2013

The risks to public health from emissions caused by hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas are low as long as operations are properly run and regulated, the British government’s health agency said on 31 October.

Public Health England (PHE) said in a review that any health effects were likely to be minimal from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves the pumping of water and chemicals into dense shale formations deep underground.

Because there is currently no fracking in Britain, the PHE report examined evidence from countries such as the United States, where it found that any risk to health was typically because of operational failure.

“The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated,” said John Harrison, director of PHE’s center for radiation, chemical, and environmental hazards.

“Good well construction and maintenance is essential to reduce the risks of groundwater contamination,” he added.

EPA Strengthens Chemical Assessment Process To Protect Public Health

Source: EPA | 30 October 2013

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this summer announced changes to its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program to improve the scientific foundation of assessments, increase transparency in the program and the process, and allow the agency to produce more IRIS assessments each year. IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. These high quality, science-based health assessments are used to inform decisions to protect public health and the environment.

“EPA is committed to producing high-quality scientific assessments in a timely and transparent manner,” said Lek Kadeli, principal deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The improvements … will further strengthen our IRIS assessments and enable the agency to better protect human health and the environment by completing more health assessments for chemicals that are being used across our country every day.”

Consistent with recommendations from the National Research Council, EPA will now begin releasing preliminary materials and hold a public meeting early in the assessment development process to explain the criteria for selecting studies and to ensure that critical research was not omitted. Meeting with the public earlier in the process will result in more timely opportunities for the public to provide input into the assessment and comment on the information available for each chemical assessed.

The EPA is also using a new document structure for IRIS assessments that is clearer, more concise, and more systematic to make the information more accessible. To improve transparency, the agency is enhancing the IRIS website by providing more detailed information regarding assessment schedules, stakeholder meetings, and updates on IRIS progress.

Additionally, the agency is implementing “stopping rules” for IRIS that will provide a cut-off point for accepting new data for individual IRIS assessments and raising scientific issues related to the assessment. With these changes, EPA’s goal is to increase the number of assessments being completed each year and provide more accurate assessment development timelines to the public.

The IRIS database contains crucial information about how and at what level chemicals may affect human health. When combined with exposure information, governments and private entities use IRIS to help characterize the public health risks of chemical substances, thereby supporting risk management decisions designed to protect public health.


The Relationship Between Smoking and Health Care, Workers’ Compensation, and Productivity Costs for a Large Employer

Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine | 21October 2013


Objective: To quantify and compare employee health- and productivity-related costs for current smokers vs. nonsmokers for a large US employer.

Methods: Multivariate regression models were used to compare medical, pharmacy, workers’ compensation, and short-term disability costs, self-reported absenteeism, and presenteeism by smoking status. Costs were aggregated over 3 years, from 2008 to 2010.

Results: Controlling for demographic variables, smokers had significantly different health care utilization patterns, as well as higher absenteeism and presenteeism costs. Overall, employees who smoke were estimated to cost employers $900 to $1,383 more than their nonsmoking counterparts.

Conclusions: Current smokers experience incrementally greater lost productivity than nonsmokers, contributing to employer costs associated with smoking. Increased employer focus on smoking cessation may help mitigate these organizational costs.

Expro Wins RoSPA Scotland Trophy for Health, Safety Management

Source: 27 September 2013

Leading international oilfield services company Expro has received another major acknowledgement for its approach to occupational health and safety management from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Expro’s David Ford receivs the Scotland Trophy from Tom Mullarkey MBE, RoSPA chief executive, left, and Eric Wiles, RoSPA chairman.

Expro’s David Ford receives the Scotland Trophy from Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA chief executive, left, and Eric Wiles, RoSPA chairman.

Expro was presented with the prestigious RoSPA Scotland Trophy at the charity’s Occupational Health and Safety Awards, in a ceremony at the Hilton Glasgow, on 19 September.

The RoSPA Scotland Trophy is presented annually to recognize the highest standard of health and safety management and performance by an organization based in or operating in Scotland.

This accolade adds to the 9 years of continuous recognition of Expro by RoSPA for its consistent and outstanding safety record. Earlier this year, the company was awarded a RoSPA Commendation for excellence in health and safety at work within the oil and gas sector in the Society’s 2013 Awards.

In 2010, Expro received a coveted Gold Medal in recognition of 6 years of industry-leading health and safety performance and commitment. In 2011 and 2012, Expro was also commended in the oil and gas industry sector highlighting its long-term commitment to safety.

David Rawlins, RoSPA’s awards manager, said, “RoSPA firmly believes that organizations that demonstrate commitment to continuous improvement in accident and ill health prevention deserve recognition. Expro has shown that it is committed to striving for such continuous improvement, and we are delighted to honor it through the presentation of an award.”

David Ford, Expro’s Group HSEQ Manager, said, “We are very proud to receive this major award from RoSPA. This accolade is indicative of how much effort Expro employees, across the globe, put into safety and safe working practices in the delivery of our services.”