If you work in the Oklahoma oil and gas industry, safety on the job site is likely your primary concern. Have you given thought to the number of hours you spend in circumstances in which hazardous chemicals threaten your safety? If you do not practice the necessary safety standards, you could contract occupational diseases that will harm your skin, lungs and other organs.
Chemical hazards come along with noise-induced hearing loss and the threats confined spaces pose in this industry. If you have worked in the oilfields for many years, you should remain beware of complacency. Remember, occupational illness and injuries can happen at any time to anyone, so brush up on your safety precaution strategies at frequent intervals.
Silica forms the basic component of rock and sand, and exposure can cause life-threatening, but preventable, diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes exposure standards and asks employers and workers not to lose sight of the following:
- Breathing in minuscule particles of the airborne, respirable crystalline silica poses the primary hazard.
- Even small quantities of silica entering your lungs can cause silicosis — which is incurable — or lung cancer.
- The crystalline silica particles are so small that you cannot see them, but once they get into your lungs, they start building up in every little corner.
- Respirable crystalline silica is present in concrete, mortar and cement, as well as in topsoil, fill dirt, sand granite and blasting abrasives. Silica makes up 99% of the sand used in hydraulic fracturing.
- High-risk activities include moving, sweeping, loading and unloading gravel or sand, hydraulic fracturing, abrasive blasting, drilling, cementing operations and working with quartz-containing dry additives.
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration require employers to provide workers in the oilfield with the appropriate personal protective equipment to protect them from the following:
- H2S smells like rotten eggs, and although this odor indicates danger, exposure to it quickly kills your sense of smell. When this happens, you will not notice the deadly gas that can cause your death.
- H2S forms during the process of natural gas purification and in crude oil refinement.
- H2S is colorless, flammable and highly toxic even in very low concentrations.
- H2S typically accumulates in low-lying areas because it is heavier than air.
Pockets of hydrogen sulfide can occur anywhere.
Naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM)
As the name suggests, NORM occurs in nature, often in components of operations at oil and gas facilities.
- NORM in the crust of the earth could include radon, radium, uranium and thorium.
- NORM can be present in sludge, drilling fluids and scale from the brine of oil recovery.
- Particular care is necessary during transportation and disposal of these spoils.
- Watch out for NORM in piping runs and when working with production manifolds, wellheads, gas and oil separator flow lines, valves, storage tanks, desalinators, and dehydrators.
Your job in the oil and gas industry will expose you to the dangers of mercury — in liquid and vapor form. Long-term or chronic exposure can cause tremors, stupor, hearing and vision changes, personality changes, and nervousness. Take particular care when you do any of the following:
- Installation or removal of infrastructure or components is high-risk activities.
- Mercury exposure is possible during welding, polishing, buffing and grinding.
- Be careful when you do pipefitting or machining and during hydro-excavating and electrical work.
Other health hazards linked to mercury include burning and irritated eyes and skin, and it could even adversely affect your kidneys.
Despite your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits if you should suffer hazardous chemical harm, proving your condition to be work-related could be challenging. An experienced Oklahoma workers’ comp attorney can take over and fight for your rights to maximum benefits under applicable laws.