Workers on drilling rigs have potential dermal exposures to hydrocarbons and other chemicals, both naturally occurring in the crude oil, as well as in the drilling muds and other solutions mixed on site. Workers are frequently splashed with drilling mud during their work shift, and coveralls and work gloves can become saturated with contaminants. Although there is a great deal of information on the characterization of inhalation hazards in the oil and gas industry, very little information is available on dermal hazards and thereby an inconsistent application of chemical protective gloves, coveralls, or face shields. This presentation looks at different methods that were used to estimate employee dermal exposures as well as identify future research needs.

Current methods include biological monitoring, which is conducted post exposure once the chemical has been absorbed and/or metabolized by the body. However, biological indicators have not been established by all chemicals with a skin designation. Surface wipe sampling has been used to assess the potential for contact to contaminated surfaces. Test methods are also available to quantify dermal exposure using dermal wipes or rinses, or sensors placed inside gloves to determine the effectiveness of glove selection. However, these are typically for pure chemicals only. Currently, there are no validated test methods to detect skin exposure to personnel from mixed hydrocarbons.

A mathematical model was used to estimate the dose from dermal exposure to mixed hydrocarbons. When used in conjunction with personal exposure monitoring to airborne contaminants, this model can estimate the total dose received by personnel, which may be higher than indicated by air sampling data alone.

OSHA and ACGIH have listed 226 chemicals with a skin designation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 (the most current year for which data is available) the total number of recordable cases of skin diseases in the United States was 33,300, which represents 16% of all recordable illness cases that year. In addition to skin diseases, many chemicals with a skin designation can be absorbed directly through the skin, contributing to the workers exposure by inhalation.

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