The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have issued a new hazard alert for health and safety risks to workers who manually gauge or sample fluids on production and flowback tanks at oil and gas production sites. The alert, entitled Health and Safety Risks for Workers Involved in Manual Tank Gauging and Sampling at Oil and Gas Extraction Sites, offers recommendations to employers to help them protect workers that open tank hatches to manually gauge or sample hydrocarbon levels.
The recommendations are divided into three categories: 1) engineering controls, which include blowdown valves and tank sampling taps, 2) work practices, which include working upwind and at a distance from open hatches, and 3) personal protective equipment, which includes flame retardant clothing and appropriate respiratory protection.
The alert cites OSHA and NIOSH research that found oil and gas production workers may be exposed to very high concentrations of hydrocarbon gases and vapors when manually gauging or sampling production tanks. The high concentrations of these gases and vapors also introduces a risk of fire or explosion, as well as an oxygen-deficient environment that can cause workers to lose consciousness and die. OSHA and NIOSH attributed nine fatalities to workers manually gauging or sampling production tanks between 2010 and 2014.
The alert is intended to supplement the OSHA Alliance Tank Hazard Alert released in 2015 by the National Service, Transportation, Exploration, and Production Safety Network.