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New hazard alert from OSHA and NIOSH highlights dangers of tank gauging

Occupational Safety and Health Administration, February 12, 2016

WASHINGTON - A new hazard alert from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identifies health and safety risks to oil and gas industry workers who manually gauge or sample fluids on production and flowback tanks. It was triggered by a series of preventable deaths related to manual gauging of tanks.

The new alert, Health and Safety Risks for Workers Involved in Manual Tank Gauging and Sampling at Oil and Gas Extraction Sites, provides specific recommendations for employers that will protect workers from hazards associated with opening tank hatches to manually gauge or sample hydrocarbon levels. The recommendations fall into three main categories: engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment.

It has been known for years that oil and gas extraction is extremely dangerous work, with high rates of workplace fatalities. We also know that every incident is preventable,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “It’s critically important that we all work together to make sure that oil and gas extraction workers are aware of life-threatening exposure to hydrocarbon gases and vapors and low oxygen atmospheres, and that they are protected.

The expansion of the oil and gas extraction industry has led to new opportunities, but also new risks for workers,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This joint alert highlights the importance of remaining vigilant about the safety and health of our nation’s workers as our nation changes and adapts to these new opportunities.”

The alert highlights research from both OSHA and NIOSH which has shown that workers at oil and gas extraction sites may be exposed to very high concentrations of hydrocarbon gases and vapors when manually gauging or sampling production tanks. Workers also face the risk of fires or explosions from high concentrations of hydrocarbon gas and vapors. These activities can also result in oxygen-deficient environments, which can cause loss of consciousness and death. OSHA and NIOSH identified nine fatalities to workers manually gauging or sampling production tanks during 2010-2014.

This alert is a supplement to the OSHA Alliance Tank Hazard Alert that was released in 2015 by the National Service, Transportation, Exploration & Production Safety Network. For more information on suspected worker fatalities from manual tank gauging and sampling, visit http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/pdfs/mm6501a2.pdf. 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

 


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