The Hazards of Confined Space Entry for Oil and Gas Workers
Confined spaces in oil and gas fields increase the injury and fatality risk of workers from explosions, fires, asphyxiation, drowning, and loss of consciousness. The work area is often small and restrictive in an oilfield, such as the inside of tanks or pipes. The oil and gas companies have a legal duty to provide a safe work environment for the workers.
If you or someone you love has been injured while working in the oil and gas industry, you should consult with an experienced oilfield injuries attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights and obtain your rightful compensation.
Atmospheric Hazards of Working in Confined Spaces
Atmospheric hazards cause the most deaths associated with working in a confined space entry. These spaces are too small to allow proper ventilation. An employee can quickly become overwhelmed and lose consciousness. Further, atmospheric hazards are sudden and unexpected which can make evacuation challenging.
Major atmospheric hazards come in the form of:
- Flammable vapors and gases
- Toxic gases and vapors
- Oxygen-deficient atmosphere
The four major gases that make working in a confined space dangerous are oxygen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and explosive gases.
Oxygen is hazardous in both too much and too little quantity. Workers can become dizzy and start to lose consciousness when there is too little oxygen. Too much oxygen will cause a faster burning and hotter fire if something went wrong and were to ignite.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is poisonous when inhaled at excess levels. It’s released when carbon-based materials are not sufficiently burned. As per OSHA’s Fact Sheet, carbon monoxide is rampantly present in the oil and natural gas industry.
Hydrogen sulfide is a highly flammable and colorless gas with a distinct odor. It can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes, headaches, and nausea. High levels of hydrogen sulfide can result in unconsciousness, shock, convulsions, and death.
Flammable gases are measured as LEL (lower explosive limits.) These represent the lowest concentration of vapors and gases that are capable of producing a flash fire. Pipefitters, welders, and other maintenance workers are required to use extra caution.
Other Hazards of Working in Confined Space Entry
There is a high danger of excessive noise when working in confined spaces. It is important for all employees to be given hearing protection. This is especially true for workers involved in pounding, hammering, or using powered equipment. Inadequate lighting can prove to be a hazard as well. Most confined spaces with a narrow entry will be dark.
Workers should be provided with flashlights, headlamps, and other means of providing extra light. Well-lit workspace always mitigates the risk of worker injury. It’s essential to use intrinsically-safe lighting when working in confined spaces. Combustible gases can quickly catch fire and cause an explosion.
Equipment Required for Entering Confined Space in the Oil and Gas Industry
Your company should have a viable lockout tagout program in place. You should also be trained on following applicable lockout procedures before being asked to enter a confined space. OSHA standard 1910.146(d)(4) directs employers in the oil and gas industry to provide the following equipment, maintain it properly, and train the employee in using it at no extra cost to the employee.
Testing and monitoring equipment
A 4-gas monitor for measuring the presence of oxygen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and explosive gases is the main testing equipment workers should be provided with.
Ventilation equipment is required for spaces that don’t have an adequate air supply. Your employee should provide you with this equipment so that you can pump air into the space before entering.
The entrant should always be able to maintain two-way communication with the attendant. This can be through 2-way radio systems and phones.
Personal protective equipment
The employer needs to provide necessary PPE (personal protective equipment) based on their job responsibilities. Basic PPE needed by an oil and gas industry worker to enter a confined space includes:
- Normal workwear
- Harness for emergency retrieval
- Respirator depending on the atmosphere and work
Emergency rescue equipment
Rescue equipment involves an extraction and harness device. OSHA requires employers to have some sort of rescue plan in place even though it doesn’t necessarily require a harness.
Workers should be provided with intrinsically-safe lighting equipment. Portable lighting units and headlamps are popular options.
Safety in Confined Spaces for Oilfield Workers
Oilfield workers risk being exposed to toxic vapors, flammable gases, and hazardous chemicals whenever they enter confined spaces, particularly around a wellhead. OSHA standards have made it mandatory for employers to classify a confined space with the potential to contain serious atmospheric hazards to require a permit before entry. It should also be continuously monitored and tested.
Employees working in these areas need to be trained properly on identifying and dealing with the hazards of asphyxiation, entrapment, and ignition of flammable vapors.
Choose a Dedicated Oilfield Injury Lawyer to Maximize Your Financial Compensation
If you were injured or someone you love was killed in an oilfield explosion or accident, you need to act quickly to protect your rights. The experienced attorneys at the Trainor Law Firm understand the complex OSHA regulations governing the oil and gas industry.
We know how to employ this knowledge for ensuring the recovery of maximum compensation for injured victims and their families. We are happy to provide you with a free case evaluation to discuss your best legal options. Call us at 985-545-3422 or reach us online.