“Gasland” Film Maker Turns His Lens to Worker Safety in the Gas FieldsFeb 19th, 2013 | By Mark | Category: Fracking, Lead Articles, Regulation
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Academy-award nominated filmmaker Josh Fox will soon release a short film called CJ’s Law that he hopes will shine a light on the workplace safety hazards faced every day by workers in the gas fields.
The legislation at the heart of the film, S3466-2013, also known as CJ’s Law, would establish basic workplace safety protections in the State of New York aimed at protecting the men and women who work in the gas fields. Among other provisions, the law would specifically require drilling companies to:
- notify workers when they are being exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace, and limit that exposure,
- limit the number of consecutive hours that can be worked by both on-site workers and those involved in off-site transportation activities,
- provide proper training and safety equipment to workers,
- properly care for and treat workplace clothing that has been exposed to hazardous materials, and
- provide clean and safe living conditions to workers who live on site.
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The law would also specifically define employees of the drilling companies as employees, instead of independent contractors, who are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits.
“Our hope is that this bill will become a template for similar workplace safety legislation in every state in the country,” Fox told NaturalGasWatch.org during a recent interview. “This is a situation of criminal negligence, in my view. These companies are cutting corners and they’re doing at the workers’ expense.”
Fox said he was inspired to make the film after meeting the family of C.J. Bevins at an anti-fracking rally. Bevins was killed on May 1, 2011, while working on a natural gas drilling rig.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it has come to be called in the parlance of our times, is a procedure in which tens of thousands of gallons of water, laced with a toxic brew of hazardous chemicals, and tons of sand are injected deep underground to break up shale formations, thereby freeing the methane trapped within so it can be harvested by the natural gas companies.
The workplace safety conditions in the gas fields, are abominable, Fox said, adding that workers are often unaware of the hazardous nature of the chemicals they routinely handle during the course of their daily work and basic safety equipment is not in place.
Indeed, a recent workplace safety analysis of natural gas drilling locations at 11 sites in five states (CO, AR, PA, TX and ND) conducted in 2010-2011 by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that workers at hydraulic fracturing sites were routinely exposed to dangerous levels of a broad range of hazardous materials, and called out a particular risk to silica exposure.
Silica is fine, nearly microscopic quartz dust that can be absorbed into the lungs unless workers are equipped with respirators. It causes a condition called silicosis, an incurable and fatal lung disease that slowly kills its victims by destroying the lungs’ capacity to absorb oxygen.
Fox told NaturalGasWatch.org that he is looking at a number of mechanisms to release the film, which is still in production. He added that when CJ’s Law does premiere, he hopes the film will draw attention to the dangers workers face every day in the gas fields.
“The gas companies are telling people that they’re creating jobs — good jobs that pay really well — and people take these jobs, thinking that they’ll work for a year or two, make a lot of money and retire. But the problem is, they don’t get to work for that long. They get sick before they make any money,” Fox said. “Gas worker are seven times more likely to die on the job than workers in other occupations, and they are 100 percent more likely to handle toxic chemicals that have a long history of killing you. Does that sound like a good job? Is that progress? Would you take a job like that?”
You can watch the trailer for CJ’s Law here: