Fracking: Bad for the Environment, the Community and Workers

Mike Krajewski, a father of three, was just 49 when he died of an on-the-job injury in North Dakota, a state that’s been experiencing a fracking boom as oil and gas companies move in to take advantage of the state’s natural resources. His death was the result of an improperly turned valve that caused a pipe to come loose and hit him in the head. A coworker, Brad Hong, was injured during the same incident. Bruce Revers, 58, lives with silicosis, a chronic disease associated with numerous occupations, including fracking; while he worked in a different industry, his life as a silicosis patient relying on external oxygen to breathe is very similar to that experienced by retired fracking personnel.

An explosion in Texas in May of last year injured two unnamed workers. Savatore M. Bombardiere claims toxic chemical exposure at fracking sites in Pennsylvania caused health complications, and is suing his former employers. In September, five unnamed workers were injured when well equipment malfunctioned in Louisiana.

Welcome to one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.:  being an oil and gas worker, particularly in the fracking industry, which is growing by leaps and bounds, without accompanying safety precautions. As young, inexperienced personnel flood oil rigs, fields and roads, the injury rate is growing, and many communities are having trouble keeping up.

While the dangers of fracking to the environment and communities have long been a topic of discussion, worker welfare hasn’t been covered as thoroughly, and it’s time for that to change. This extremely dangerous industry puts workers at severe risk of occupational injuries as well as future medical complications, and many fracking workers have inadequate personal safety gear and legal protections. That’s bad news for everyone, not just workers.

Hydraulic fracturing, as it’s more formally known, is the use of pressurized fluids to access oil and gas deposits. Environmentally, it involves the waste of billions of gallons of water as well as environmental devastation in communities where wells are placed, and it’s been linked with earthquakes, sinkholes and destruction of wildlife habitat. People living in communities where fracking is used complain of chronic health problems, flaming water and other colorful issues, illustrating that this technique has far-reaching effects that can’t be limited to the oilfield.

For workers, fracking is a way to make a living, but it can be deadly. The oil and gas industry involves working with heavy equipment and toxic chemicals, which can be a heady mix. One of the most dangerous occupations in the injury is that of a driver, as Ethan Ritter can testify: he was struck by a train while crossing the tracks, and that was after incurring an earlier back injury which he was effectively told to cover up. It’s hard to get reliable numbers on workplace injuries because they’re dependent on reporting of said injuries, something strongly discouraged by the industry, but the numbers on deaths are rather shocking: fracking workers are more than seven times more likely to die on the job than other workers in the U.S.

In addition to those occupational hazards, fracking can leave a lingering legacy. Oil and gas workers involved in the fracking industry are exposed to silica dust, a byproduct of the process. OSHA has warned that this substance, when inhaled, can cause lung inflammation. This can lead to an incurable respiratory condition known as silicosis, or it can cause lung cancer, chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder, kidney disease, and autoimmune conditions. Some people develop illnesses after weeks or months of exposure, while others don’t get sick until the end of a lifetime of work, a situation reminiscent of workers with health problems related to asbestos and coal exposure.

Even as the number of wells has increased and the number of workers has gone up, inspections have gone down, and on-the-job injuries have climbed. It’s time for fracking’s dangers to workers to take center stage along with its environmental problems and the harm it causes to communities, because everyone deserves access to a safe and healthy work environment.

Related articles:

Top 3 Catastrophes Linked to Natural Gas Fracking

Ohio Fracking Wastewater Test Reveals Toxic Mess

EPA Chief Tells Congress ‘There’s No Proof Fracking is Dangerous’

Photo credit: greensefa


Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Frances Darcy
Frances Darcy5 years ago


Michael Abdi
Michael Abdi5 years ago

stop fracking

Aud Nordby
Aud nordby5 years ago


Elisa Faulkner- Uriarte
Elisa F5 years ago

No Fracking!

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill6 years ago

How can fracking be bad for workers? They have a job. There are millions of people who would love to have their jobs. If they don't want the work, then quit.

Fiona T.
Past Member 6 years ago

Can there be something beneficial done?

Activist Inspireharmony

High volume horizontal slickwater fracturing - otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, or simply “fracking” - is the new frontier in the West’s overreliance on fossil fuels. Involving the drilling of horizontal wells that are then injected with large volumes of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure, “fracking” is the latest boom industry. But, the consequences for communities and the environment are devastating. Traveling to Pennsylvania, Eco Storm visited a once-quiet town that has woken up to discover that polluted water supplies, noise pollution and even exploding wells are the real cost of big business. In a final insult to those communities affected by the catastrophic practice, the “Halliburton loophole” signed by George W. Bush effectively exempts the gas industry from having to reveal the mix of chemicals used to break up sub surface rock. Eco Storm investigates the extent and harm of the latest trend in fossil fuel extraction.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

One more reason why we need to replace fossil fuel with sustainable energy. Fat cats rule; fat cats have always ruled; fat cats will always rule; coal mine owners and oil and gas well owners are among the fattest of fat cats. No way can we get anything that is any good for anybody else without making sure those fat cats get their due tribute. One possibility might be highly regressive taxes both on greenhouse emissions and on energy. To avoid tanking the economy, it will be necessary both to phase the tax in so as to raise the retail price of energy by only 10% each year and to balance the tax with some printing press type deficit spending. If the elasticity of demand for energy is -0.37, as I suspect, the maximum revenue rate will be 0.90% at the ninth year of phasing in the tax, at which point roughly 1/3 of the demand for energy will be priced out of the market. It will be necessary to spend over half the tax revenue on buying the fossil fuel priced out of the market from the fossil fuel firms as RESERVES to be held underground unburned forever. The rest of the revenue can be spent on replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy PROVIDED we also buy as RESERVES all the fossil fuel displaced by renewable energy.

Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

Coal is dirty, dangerous to mine and deadly to the environment. We're already seeing fracking in the same light.

We still use coal. I fear that 30 years from now we're still going to be fracking.