Chemicals, Uncategorized

Gas Detection: Hydrogen Sulfide Hazards and Releases

Hydrogen sulfide, or sour gas, is a flammable, colorless gas that is toxic at extremely low concentrations. It is heavier than air, and may accumulate in low-lying areas. It smells like “rotten eggs” at low concentrations and causes workers to quickly lose their sense of smell.

Hydrogen sulfide, or sour gas, is a flammable, colorless gas that is toxic at extremely low concentrations. It is heavier than air, and may accumulate in low-lying areas. It smells like “rotten eggs” at low concentrations and causes workers to quickly lose their sense of smell.

Many areas where the gas is found have been identified, but pockets of the gas can occur anywhere.

Iron sulfide is a byproduct of many oil and gas production operations and may spontaneously combust with air.

Flaring operations associated with hydrogen sulfide production will generate sulfur dioxide, another toxic gas.

Active monitoring for hydrogen sulfide gas and good planning and training programs for workers are the best ways to prevent injury and death. All personnel working in an area where concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may exceed the permissible exposure limit (PEL) (20 ppm for general industry and 10 ppm for construction) should be provided with training before beginning work assignments.


If a release of hydrogen sulfide in excess of the PEL is detected, OSHA recommends the following actions.

Implement a hydrogen sulfide contingency plan including, but not limited to:

  • Appropriate instruction in the use of hydrogen sulfide safety equipment to all personnel present at all hydrogen sulfide hazard areas.
  • Gas detection where hydrogen sulfide may exist.
  • Appropriate respiratory protection for normal and emergency use [29 CFR 1910.134].
  • For emergency response information, see Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard, [29 CFR 1910.120].

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Comprehensive training should be provided for workers in hydrogen sulfide operations. Example topics include:

  • Identification of the characteristics, sources, and hazards of hydrogen sulfide.
  • Proper use of the hydrogen sulfide detection methods used on the site.
  • Recognition of, and proper response to, hydrogen sulfide warnings at the workplace.
  • Proper rescue techniques and first-aid procedures to be used in a hydrogen sulfide exposure by personnel trained to recognize symptoms of exposure.
  • Proper use and maintenance of personal protective equipment. Demonstrated proficiency in using PPE should be required.
  • Worker awareness and understanding of workplace practices and maintenance procedures to protect personnel from exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
  • Wind direction awareness and routes of egress.
  • Confined space and enclosed facility entry procedures.
  • Locations and use of safety equipment.
  • Locations of safe briefing areas.
  • Use and operation of hydrogen sulfide monitoring systems.
  • Emergency response procedures, corrective action, and shutdown procedures.
  • Effects of hydrogen sulfide on the components of the hydrogen sulfide handling system.
  • The importance of drilling fluid treating plans prior to encountering hydrogen sulfide.

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