Fracking Fatalities: Organized Labor Implores Federal Agencies to Stop the Killings
WASHINGTON—As hydraulic fracturing—also known as “fracking”—has become a more common way to extract natural gas from underneath the United States, employment in the natural gas industry has expanded dramatically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2008 there was a 62-percent increase in the number of workers employed in the oil and natural gas industries in the United States. During this same period, the number of fatalities in the industries grew by 41 percent.
Despite the increase in fracking sites, the number of inspections of areas being drilled has decreased. According to an analysis of more than 50,000 inspection reports by The New York Times, the number of drilling rigs rose by more than 22 percent in 2011 from the prior year, but the number of inspections at such worksites fell by 12 percent.
In a letter sent last week, the AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers union and the United Mine Workers complain that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are not doing enough to regulate the potential hazards that harm fracking workers.
“A strong effort by the federal safety and health agencies is needed to work with the industry and involve unions to ensure that these controls are properly implemented as employment in this industry sector rapidly grows,” the unions and the labor federation wrote.