Since it began being used over 60 years ago the process of Hydraulic Fracturing, better known as Fracking, has changed the Oil and Gas Industry. It is a technique that has gained notoriety and caused controversy, but has been used over a million times by the Oil & Gas Industry.
The process involved drilling horizontal tubes through rock and forcing water through it at high pressure, causing the surrounding rock to fracture and release oil or natural gas. One method of fracking involves using stepped size holes along the horizontal pipe, and sending different sized balls down the tube. The balls will get stuck in the corresponding sized tube, which allows workers to easily pressurize specific sections of the drill tube.
These balls need to fit specific requirements, including being able to withstand immense pressure and heat, easy to drill out of the tube, and in some cases need to be biodegradable. This has led to an increase in plastic composite companies as they work to develop the next best fracking ball, but this creates a new set of combustible dust fines for plastics.
There is always a danger when manufacturing plastic products, and one company who makes these fracking balls discovered that recently after an OSHA inspection.
A. Hyatt Ball Co. is located in New York and manufactures fracking balls, but an OSHA inspection revealed 48 alleged violations of workplace safety regulations. The violations have resulted in proposed fines of $105,200 and the company has 15 days to comply with or contest the inspection’s findings.
The company’s violations include the improper storage of flammable liquids, no fire alarm or fire suppression system, and dangerous levels of combustible plastic dust. Plastics are one of the main categories of combustible dust that OSHA has warned manufacturers about, and this company was putting their workers at risk by not taking steps to prevent an explosion.
Any employees concerned about their safety or possible violations are able to anonymously contact OSHA to file a complaint or request an inspection by calling 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visiting https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/worker/complain.html