Accidental Gas Inhalation: The Silent Killer of the Oil Industry

The hidden dangers of the oil industryWorking in the oil industry can be dangerous when employers and construction companies fail to take adequate measures to guarantee safety. One of those dangers is the inhalation of hydrocarbons. Many workers are exposed to dangerous gasses while tank gauging, the process of measuring oil and other byproducts in tanks. Others face dangers while servicing tanks.

Take for example the 2007 deaths of two workers in Galliano, Louisiana, who died from hydrogen sulfide inhalation while cleaning a tank. The accident occurred when one of the workers accidently disconnected his respirator after falling from a ladder. A second worker who saw the accident occur attempted to help, but also succumbed to the dangerous gas. Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas with the unmistakable smell of rotten eggs. It is also a cause of fatal work accidents in the oil industry.

Other dangerous vapors include benzene, ethane, propane and butane. Centers for Disease Control studies have warned hydrocarbon gasses can cause cardiac arrhythmias, a malfunction of the heart that can cause cardiac arrest and death.

How Does Accidental Gas Inhalation Occur?

What does this type of work accident look like? After opening the hatches to tanks, workers are exposed to a sudden release of dangerous and invisible plumes. Why do these accidents happen? In some cases, the design of tanks and pipes are the culprit. For example, an environmental engineer with Marathon Oil noted that his company had used pipes that were too narrow, causing a deadly buildup of gas and pressure in tanks.

It is critical that companies work to reduce the levels of these hydrocarbon gasses and use tanks that do not pose fatal risks to workers. No family should ever have to receive a phone call that their loved one had died from preventable causes.


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