Responding to new research indicating that workers who work on or close
to production and flowback tanks, OSHA andNIOSH issued a new alert in
February concerning health and safety risks from hydrocarbon gas and vapor
exposure. Between 2010 and 2014, there were nine fatal
oil field injuries from workers sampling or gauging production tanks in oil fields including
Besides exposure to hazardous gas and vapor levels, workers can encounter
oxygen-deficient surroundings and flammability risks. In the fatal accidents
occurring at crude oil production tanks, workers were either working alone
or no other worker was monitoring them. According to the alert, air purifying
respirators were ineffective against light hydrocarbon gases and authorities
indicated that supplied air respirators are necessary for adequate protection.
alert, the agencies listed recommendations for employers in the Bakken and other
oil drilling operations to make sure their workers understand the hazards
and have protection from exposure. The agencies’ recommendations include:
Improve tank sampling and gauging methods so that workers can monitor fluid
levels and sample without opening the tank hatch.
Educate workers about known hazards related to gauging tanks including
low oxygen environments, combustibility hazards and the potential for
hydrocarbons to reach or exceed Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health
Concentrations (IDLH) when workers open thief hatches;
Make sure workers receive training on correct and consistent use of calibrated
multi-gas monitors to measure Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) and oxygen concentration.
Mandate that workers not work alone when gauging tanks and working near
tanks, thief hatches or other areas where they could potentially encounter
Employ respiratory protection when remote gauging is not practical or absent.
Because OSHA will probably use the alert as a basis for issuing General
Duty Clause violation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of
1970, regulated companies in the Bakken and elsewhere should review their
tank gauging and sampling procedures and modify them correspondingly.
contact us to learn about your options after oil field injury in the Bakken.