NIOSH and CDPH-OHB Release Video to Protect Workers During Oil and Gas Tank Gauging

August 28, 2017

NIOSH and CDPH-OHB Release Video to Protect Workers During Oil and Gas Tank Gauging

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the California Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Branch (CDPH-OHB), recently released a video to help protect oil and gas extraction workers from the hazards they face when measuring oil storage tanks. The video, Protecting Oil and Gas Workers from Hydrocarbon Gases and Vapors, weaves together a narrative of the health and safety risks involved with this activity, and how employers and workers can reduce injuries and fatalities from exposure to toxic gases and oxygen-deficient atmospheres.

Over 500,000 workers are employed in the oil & gas industry, a workforce that is critical to the energy infrastructure of the nation. In the video, the experiences of oil and gas workers who are responsible for measuring tank levels, or tank gauging, and the sampling of crude oil are told from the heart by a truck owner/operator, a company operations superintendent, and the widow of a man who died of sudden cardiac death while gauging.

These workers often work long shifts, the weather can be severe, and many work at night or alone. From 2010-2014, there were at least 9 deaths associated with exposure to a mixture of hydrocarbon gas and insufficient oxygen when the thief hatch at the top of the storage tank was opened. The results of an overexposure can be immediate; the gases affect eyes, lungs and the central nervous system, and can cause the heart to have abnormal rhythms resulting in dizziness and disorientation, loss of consciousness, and even sudden cardiac death.

The new video highlights crucial information that is covered in the 2016 NIOSH-OSHA Hazard Alert: Health and Safety Risks for Workers Involved in Manual Tank Gauging and Sampling at Oil and Gas Extraction Sites. Visuals depict the reality of this type of work and the following recommendations are described and demonstrated:

  • Employers: Implement engineering controls that eliminate the need to open tank hatches (i.e., thief hatches), conduct hazard assessments and determine necessary controls to protect workers, communicate information to on-site workers and off-site contractors, train workers on proper use of controls and in emergency response procedures.
  • Workers: Inform designated personnel when beginning and finishing work; remove all items that could spark or ignite flammable gas; wear appropriate PPE, including a properly calibrated and tested multi-gas monitor; bleed off pressure using the right tools; determine wind direction when manually gauging; stay informed.

The potential hazards to workers who manually gauge or sample fluids on production and flowback tanks, such as exposure to hydrocarbon gases and vapors, oxygen-deficient atmospheres, and fires and explosions, are ones that can be prevented. The operations superintendent featured in the video, who has been in the industry for more than thirty-five years, describes how he feels: “Our main goal is to get these workers off the tank where they don’t need to be and back home safe with their families.” This, too, is NIOSH’s goal.

To download a free copy of the video, visit https://vimeo.com/224981006. To receive free copies of the DVD, contact: acompton@cdc.gov.

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Wisconsin Steel Pipe Manufacturer Faces over $110,000 in Fines for Safety Hazards

A Wisconsin manufacturer of steel pipes and tubes faces $110,458 in proposed penalties after U.S. OSHA inspectors responded to a complaint and found 13 serious safety and health violations at the company’s Marshfield, Wisconsin, facility.

At least one employee at Felker Brothers Corp., was exposed to excessive levels of hexavalent chromium, which can cause serious health issues, and another worker suffered severe injuries after being struck by a moving piece of machinery, OSHA investigators determined.

“Welding and hot work on stainless steel, high chrome alloys, and chrome-coated metal is one of the most common ways workers are exposed to hexavalent chromium. Exposure can cause respiratory tract, skin, and eye irritation,” said OSHA Area Director Chad Greenwood, in Madison. “Companies must monitor their facilities to ensure workplace health and safety procedures are effective.”

In its investigation, OSHA determined that a grinder operator was exposed to hexavalent chromium at levels 1.78% higher than the permissible exposure limit. The company also reported a worker was hospitalized after suffering a shattered jaw and concussion when he was struck by a piece of machinery. OSHA found a lack of machine safety procedures including failing to adequately anchor equipment to the floor.

In addition, OSHA found the company used damaged cranes, altered forklifts without manufacturer’s approval, failed to inspect jacks, and allowed combustible materials to be stored within 35 feet of welding and hot work.

Felker Brothers Corp. manufactures and custom fabricates stainless steel pipe, tubes, and fittings at manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin and Kentucky.

South Dakota Company Cited After Worker Buried in Trench Collapse

OSHA has cited First Dakota Enterprises Inc., of Fort Pierre, South Dakota, for failing to protect its workers from trench collapse hazards. The company faces proposed penalties of $95,064.

On May 23, 2017, a 34-year-old worker was completely buried when the walls of a 14-foot trench collapsed around him. Co-workers quickly freed the victim’s head, which allowed him to breathe while emergency personnel worked for more than 30 minutes to free him.

OSHA investigators determined that First Dakota Enterprises Inc., failed to use a trench protective system or conduct regular site inspections to correct potentially hazardous conditions. OSHA cited the company, which was contracted by the City of Emery to replace the city’s main sewer and water lines, for two repeat and one serious safety violations.

Trench collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry. As of June 1, 2017, 15 workers have died in trench collapses. In 2016, a total of 23 deaths occurred in trench and excavation operations.

“Trench collapses are preventable,” said OSHA Area Director Sheila Stanley in Sioux Falls. “It is critical that employers involved in excavation work review their safety procedures to ensure that employees are properly protected and trained. Had it not been for the heroic actions of these co-workers, this dangerous collapse may have ended in tragedy.”

Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. OSHA offers a wide range of resources and guidance information on its trenching and excavations page and through the agency’s e-tool for safe excavation and trenching.

Public, Private Partnership Promotes Safety During LaGuardia Airport Redevelopment Project

OSHA and Skanska Walsh Joint Venture have entered into a strategic partnership to enhance workplace safety and health for approximately 1,600 employees working on the LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal Building Redevelopment Project.

Established on July 6, 2017, the partnership is a collaborative effort between federal officials, private companies, and labor organizations to provide education, training, hazard prevention, and monitoring of workplace safety concerns during the $4 billion redevelopment of the Central Terminal at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

OSHA representatives will participate in meetings, serve as a resource and liaison, assist with safety and health training, provide technical assistance, make recommendations for improving the partnership’s goals, conduct inspections, and evaluate the partnership annually.

“The OSHA and Skanska Walsh partnership will allow us to focus on preventing work-related fatalities and injuries, and controlling or eliminating serious workplace hazards,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “It will also establish a foundation for effective job site safety and health programs serving approximately 250 subcontractors and their employees at LaGuardia Airport through the project’s scheduled completion in 2022.”

The project encompasses the finance, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of Central Terminal B, including construction work for supporting infrastructure and a new central entrance hall.

OSHA’s Strategic Partnership Program helps encourage, assist, and recognize proactive partner efforts to eliminate serious workplace hazards.

OSHA, Mason Contractors’ Association of St. Louis Renew Partnership for Worker Safety

A successful partnership to reduce safety incidents, injuries, and lost work time for St. Louis area masons has been renewed for a new three-year term by OSHA and the Mason Contractors’ Association of St. Louis (MCA).

In the past three years, the Total Case Incident Rate has been reduced by 36% and the Days Away, Restricted and Transfer Rates are 25% below the baseline rate. The rate was established by the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ Average for the Masonry Industry. OSHA and MCA have had a partnership since May 16, 2003.

“Our partnership with the Mason Contractors’ Association of St. Louis demonstrates the positive impact a comprehensive safety and health management system can have when management and labor come together to ensure employee safety in a high-hazard work environment,” said OSHA Area Director Bill McDonald. “The partners will continue to meet on a regular basis and share accomplishments, near misses, and best practices, to assure the continued success of this partnership.”

The partnership will continue to:

  • Develop effective safety and health training programs and procedures;
  • Identify common construction hazards such as falls, electrical, struck-by, caught-in, and trenching/excavation;
  • Encourage worker participation in employer safety and health programs; and
  • Ensure all partnership members’ employees have completed the 10-hour OSHA Outreach Training requirement.

The renewal agreement continues to have the support of the Eastern Missouri Laborers’ District Council.

Through its Strategic Partnership Program, OSHA works with employers, employees, professional and trade associations, labor organizations, and other interested stakeholders to establish specific goals, strategies, and performance measures to improve worker safety and health. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/partnerships/index.html.

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