You come to your well site one morning and find a 20-year old worker dead on the well pad. He had been gauging a crude oil tank. That’s the stuff of nightmares for all safety managers at oil and gas (O&G) sites. This particular nightmare came true for one safety manager and serves as an example for the risks to workers from exposure to gases and vapors at O&G extraction sites. Today we take up where we left off yesterday with remainder of the dozen tips to protect workers at O&G sites from exposure to hydrocarbon gases and vapors.
Tip 8. Ensure that workers are trained on—and correctly and consistently use — calibrated multigas and oxygen monitors. These devices measure lower explosive limit (LEL) and oxygen concentration percentages. Workers should understand the limitations of these monitors as well as appropriate actions to take whenever an alarm occurs or they experience health symptoms (e.g., leave the hazard area, report symptoms to supervisors).
Tip 9. Follow a buddy system. Do not permit employees to work alone when tank gauging or working around tanks, thief hatches, or other areas where they may encounter process fluids. Observers should be trained on proper rescue procedures and be stationed outside potentially hazardous areas. In addition, reduce the number of times throughout a shift a worker is required to manually gauge tanks.
Tip 10. Ensure that workers wear the proper PPE. Workers should wear flame-resistant clothing to protect against burns from fires and explosions and use appropriate impermeable gloves to limit risks for skin exposures to chemicals. Supplied air respirators (e.g., air-line or self-contained breathing apparatus [SCBA]) can protect workers from toxic exposures and oxygen-deficient atmospheres—provided the user is correctly wearing the respirator. OSHA suggests that you consult with a trained occupational safety and health professional to determine the appropriate respirator to be used. NIOSH provides guidance for selecting respirators.
Tip 11. Establish and practice emergency procedures. These procedures should ensure providing on-scene, immediate medical response in the event of an incident, such as a collapsed worker, or workers experiencing symptoms of chemical overexposures or exposure to an oxygen-deficient atmosphere.
Tip 12. Work with subcontractors on tank safety measures. Ensure and verify that your subcontractors are following work practices and procedures that prevent workers from inhaling gases or vapors when working on tanks at your well site.
For more information about safety standards and tips and training for workers, check Safety.BLR.com®.