In the Bakken and other gas and oil drilling regions, it is important that
emergency responders and health care professionals recognize and treat
the symptoms of
workplace injury from exposure to high concentrations of hydrocarbon gas and vapors and
oxygen-deficient atmospheres. Non-fatal warning signs include confusion,
dizziness and collapse.
OSHA requires that employers in the Bakken minimize or eliminate hazards
by accommodating safer fluid collection points, by remotely monitoring
fluid levels, conducting training on proper use of gas monitors, providing
approved respiratory protection equipment and making sure workers at risk
of hydrocarbon gas and vapor exposure do not work alone. External defibrillators
at work sites are also important to prevent sudden cardiac death from
toxic exposure to hydrocarbon gas and vapors and oxygen-depleted atmospheres.
Physicians and experts from
OSHA and NIOSH examined OSHA case files, the database,
NIOSH Fatalities in Oil and Gas and media reports to ascertain worker fatalities from inhalation of hydrocarbon
gas and vapors (HGV) in oil and gas extraction operations. The researchers
looked at fatalities from January 2010 to March 2015 where workers were
carrying out tank sampling, gauging or fluid transfer tasks at oil and
gas wells; were working near a concentrated HGV source such as an open
hatch; had no exposure to hydrogen sulfide, fires or explosions and were
not working in a confined space.
After reviewing OSHA investigations, gas monitor and exposure assessment
data and toxicology and coroner reports, researchers identified nine deaths.
Three occurred in the North Dakota Bakken, three in Colorado and the rest
in Texas, Montana and Oklahoma. The fatalities occurred when the victims
were working alone either collecting fluid samples or tank gauging.
In only one case was a victim wearing a provided respirator but the respirator
was not rated for high HGV concentration or depleted oxygen environments
nor was the respirator fit-tested. Please
contact us if you have incurred a workplace injury in the Bakken.