NIOSH conducted studies and posted a series of posts on their blog about the hazards of hydrocarbons and tank gauging operations in an effort to shed light on the subject. The oil & gas industry is working with many organizations, NIOSH and OSHA to develop better methods to identify and monitor for the hazards. This paper will focus specifically on the hazards associated with hydrocarbon vapors and gases in the onshore upstream oil & gas industry identifying some of the common associated tasks with potential for exposure such as gauging tanks, tank valve and instrument maintenance, fluids transfer between tanks or trucks. With the tasks identified and hazards identified, control measures such as engineering controls, safe work practices can be identified such as standard operating procedures and air monitoring procedures, and PPE requirements.
In May of 2014, NIOSH posted on their NIOSH Science Blog about worker fatalities associated with flowback operations. They asked for assistance from the oil & gas industry in further identifying incidents related to chemical exposures during flowback operations.
In August of 2014, NIOSH posted again on their NIOSH Science Blog preliminary findings of field studies associated with worker exposures to chemicals during oil & gas extraction flowback and testing operations.
In April of 2015, NIOSH posted again on their NIOSH Science Blog an update on the worker fatalities after reviewing materials from OSHA investigations and incident reports on worker deaths associated with tank gauging and sampling operations.
NIOSH has provided scientific information and some guidance which needs to be developed into the necessary information to be used by safety professionals to protect workers performing tasks where they have the potential to be exposed to hydrocarbon vapors and gases.