NIOSH, OSHA Issue Alert for New Oil and Gas Worker Hazards
Earlier this month, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an alert about newly discovered oil and gas worker hazards. This new alert is related to those workers who manually gauge or sample fluids on production and flow back tanks.
The newly-identified risks come from new research showing that such workers are regularly exposed to atmospheres containing little or no oxygen. They are also routinely exposed to hydrocarbon vapors and gases. All of that is in addition to the obvious potential for explosions and fires.
The research identified nine workers who suffered fatal injuries or illness while manually gauging or sampling crude oil production tanks between 2010 and 2014. All of these workers either worked alone or worked unobserved by a co-worker. They also reported that air-purifying respirators are ineffective against light hydrocarbon gases. Therefore, they suggested that employers only provide supplied-air respirators, such as air-line or self-contained breathing apparatus [SCBA] to those workers, to protect them from atmospheres that lack sufficient oxygen, as well as toxic exposures.
In their hazard alert, NIOSH and OSHA noted that all of these newly-identified risks are in addition to the serious risk posed by hydrogen sulfide (H2S) exposure. H2S is a well-known chemical hazard in the oil and gas industry, present in both extraction and production.
In addition to the alert, NIOSH and OSHA provided employers with a list of recommendations for making sure oil and gas workers who engage in gauging or sampling activities are protected. Among the recommendations include:
- Implementation of alternate procedures that allow for remote gauging, making it possible for workers to monitor and sample without the need to open the tank hatch;
- Increased training, so that workers understand the hazards and to prepare them for taking the precautions necessary to operate in these environments.
- Training workers to properly use calibrated multi-gas monitors, so as to measure both percent LEL and oxygen concentration;
- Prohibit workers from working alone around tanks or hatches, or anywhere they could be exposed to process fluids;
- Provide advanced respiratory protection in areas where remote gauging either hasn’t been implemented or isn’t feasible.
It is likely that OSHA will incorporate the information contained in this Alert as a basis for issuing citations for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Employers in the oil and gas industry in Texas are under the same obligation as every other employer in the state and the country, to identify oil and gas worker hazards and keep them as safe as possible at all times, even while doing hazardous work. If you or someone you love has been injured, suffered health problems or died while on the job in the oil and gas industry, please contact the highly skilled lawyers at the Hill Law Firm, and let us get to the bottom of the situation and help you protect your rights under the law.