Tank gauging is a potentially
hazardous activity that has taken the lives of a number of American workers in recent years.
Sometimes, opening the thief hatch of a storage tank results in a rapid
release of highly concentrated hydrocarbon vapor/gas. Concentrations may
behigh enough to ignite in the presence of any kind of spark. Vapors and
gases may suddenly deprive a tank worker of oxygen, resulting in loss
of consciousness and even death.
However, tank gauging, fluid handling and thieving in the Bakken are all
activities which can be completed in a safe manner given the right precautions.
Hazards Workers Face
Workers that must open hatches on oil tanks face a number of potential
hazards, including, but not limited to, sudden oxygen deficiency, fires
& explosions and chemical toxicity.
Sudden oxygen deficiency - As a hatch is opened, accumulated gases and vapors in an oil tank may
suddenly displace the air above, and a worker may be deprived of the oxygen
needed to properly breathe.
Fires and explosions - The presence of such vapors may lead to explosions set off by sparks
from seemingly innocent sources:
- Cell phones
- Static electricity
- Sparks from metal objects
- Improperly grounded items
- Non-approved electrical devices
- Open flames
Chemical toxicity - Workers involved in tank gauging may be overcome by toxic hydrocarbon
vapors, including propane, butane, benzene and hydrogen sulfide (H2S).
Tank gauging and other oil workers suffering toxic chemical exposure chemical
exposure may experience a wide array of symptoms:
- Eye irritation
- Irregular breathing or heartbeat
- Burns from flash fires
- Chronic illness
Tank workers and others who work in proximity to hydrocarbon gases should
stop a job and ask for guidance if safety questions arise.
A worker has a right to stop any work that is unsafe. Both employer and employee benefit from worker attendance at hazard communication training.
The above information was gleaned from an infographic, “Tank Gauging Hazard Alert,” produced by the National STEPS Network, an alliance of industry
businesses, organizations and educational institutions.
If you or a family member suffers an oil tank or other workplace accident,
our firm makes it possible to speak with a
work injury lawyer free of charge. To learn more, please