Jainchill & Beckert, LLC

Oil and gas industry workers face hazards from flammable vapors

A new hazard alert highlights the risk of fatalities occurring in the oil and gas industry in Connecticut and across the country by vapors igniting when vehicles and motorized equipment are in use. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Service, Transmission, Exploration & Production Safety Network released this hazard alert to draw attention to this potentially deadly problem.

Vehicles or other motorized equipment can pose a hazard when placed too close to a wellborn or other flammable site or vapor source. These flammable sources could include flowback, frac or production tanks. According to the alert, there were 85 deaths in the oil and industry from fires or explosions from 2005 to 2015.

The alert suggests that a Fire Risk Assessment is performed to ensure that motorized equipment is safely positioned during work. It also provides several suggestions to avoid serious injuries or even death. For example, if an engine "over revs" or "runs away," it becomes enveloped in a gas or vapor cloud of flammable materials. When this occurs, all the employees should evacuate the area according to emergency procedures and shutdown guidelines.

It is also important that workers are aware of possible release sources for flammable gases or vapors on a job site, taking into account changing winds or temperatures. Clear routes, boundaries and authorized areas for vehicles and other motorized equipment should also be established.

Oil and gas industry employers are responsible for creating safe jobsites for their workers, including providing protection, training and other responsible oversight of hazardous conditions. Those who are injured on the job may be eligible for compensation.

When employers fail to maintain safe working conditions, injured workers may be entitled to additional damages. A workers' compensation lawyer is an important reference for anyone who is dealing with the costs, lost wages and medical expenses caused by a workplace accident.

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