Oil refinery workers wearing hardhats

Hazards and Controls:Oil and Gas Industry


En Español

When a geologist named Anthony Lucas discovered oil on a Southeast Texas hilltop more than a century ago, he had no idea he was witnessing the birth of the modern oil industry. Fast-forward to today, and oil remains a key component in our state’s economy. Thousands of hard-working Texans make their living in the oil patch. Recent reports show that workers in the oil and gas industry were seven times more likely to die in a work-related accident than workers in other industries. Safety efforts are having a positive effect, but it remains a high-risk profession that requires diligent safety measures.

 

OSHA recently issued a new silica standard that reduces the permissible exposure limit and requires employers to put control measures in place.

Hazard: Motor Vehicle Accidents

Of all the hazards oil and gas workers face, the most dangerous is something they consider second-nature: driving. Motor vehicle fatalities in the oil patch are eight times higher than in other industries.

Controls:

  • Wear your seatbelt all the time, and make sure passengers do the same.
  • Control your speed, especially when visibility is poor, you are hauling awkward loads or roads are slick or in poor condition.
  • Put away cell phones and other distractions.
  • Do not drive drowsy. If you feel yourself getting tired, ask a passenger to drive, or pull over to a safe place and rest.
  • Watch this series of 60-second videos on safe driving.

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Hazard: Burns

Flammable vapor and liquids, hazardous chemicals and hot work operations are common sources of burns in the oil industry.

Controls:

  • Implement and enforce a hazard communication program for handling chemicals.
  • Wear required personal protective equipment cutting, welding and handling chemicals.
  • Inspect tools, cords and plugs before use, and remove damaged items from service.
  • Follow lockout/tagout procedures.

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Hazard: Struck By, Caught-in-Between

Workers might be exposed to struck-by/caught-in/caught-between from moving vehicles or equipment, falling equipment and high-pressure lines.

Controls:

  • Cover pipe-moving procedures during employee orientation.
  • Outfit elevated work and storage areas with toe boards to keep tools and supplies from falling.
  • Make sure tools and machines include necessary guards.
  • Inspect tools, cords and plugs before use, and remove damaged items from service.

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Hazard: Slips, Trips and Falls

Wet, oily, muddy and icy surfaces increase the risk of slips, trips and falls. Workers might also be required to access platforms and equipment located high above the ground.

Controls:

  • Keep the job site clean and orderly, with walkways clear of clutter that can create trips hazards.
  • Select, set up and use ladders safely.
  • Use required fall protection when working from heights.
  • Do not jump from truck beds or equipment.

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Hazard: Hydrogen Sulfide Gas

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is a flammable, colorless gas that is toxic at extremely low concentrations. It is heavier than air, and may accumulate in low-lying areas. More commonly known as sour gas, H2S smells like “rotten eggs” at low concentrations and causes you to quickly lose your sense of smell.

Controls:

  • Understand and comply with OSHA’s permissible exposure limit for H2S.
  • Stay alert when working in conditions that increase the risk of H2S exposure, such as in manholes and other confined spaces, windless or low-lying areas, marshy landscapes, and hot weather that speeds up the rotting of manure and other organic materials.
  • Make sure a qualified person uses proper equipment, such as an electronic meter, to test for H2S before you enter the area.
  • Use your nose. H2S smells like rotten eggs at low concentrations. Don’t rely only on your nose, however, because you can lose your sense of smell the longer you are exposed to H2S.
  • Don’t smoke; H2S is flammable.
  • Wear your personal H2S monitor at all times. If it goes off, get upwind immediately. Workers often wear their monitor within 10 inches of their nose and mouth, but consult the manufacturer for proper placement.
  • Learn how to properly use and maintain your respiratory protection.

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