Background: Workers responsible for manually gauging or collecting fluid samples from oilfield production tanks can be exposed to lethal doses of hydrocarbon gases and vapors as well as oxygen deficient environments. Nine worker deaths related to gauging and sampling were identified during 2010–2014 (Harrison et al., 2016) and, since 2015, a campaign to increase awareness of this hazard has reached thousands of workers and companies. Despite this, many oilfield companies continue to require workers to open tank hatches to gauge tanks and collect fluid samples. Continuing this practice could be due to the perceived costs or measurement inaccuracies of implementing alternative methods, regulatory barriers, or because it has historically been conducted in this manner. In response, the American Petroleum Institute released a new safety standard (API MPMS 18.2) describing alternative methods for measuring crude oil without opening tank hatches, and some companies have proactively implemented safer technologies and practices to eliminate the hazard. Methods: This paper will cover five case studies featuring companies that have examined their workers’ exposures and implemented safer methods for gauging and sampling. Unanticipated benefits as well as challenges are also covered. Conclusions: The types of approaches featured in these case studies have the potential to nearly eliminate manual tank gauging and sampling in their operations. These companies demonstrate that using alternative methods is not only safer, but a wise investment for a company’s bottom line. Novel Information: This paper contains the first report of how companies successfully implemented alternative methods to reduce hydrocarbon gas and vapor exposures associated with opening tank hatches, and how they addressed cost and regulatory barriers.
The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.