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Chemical hazards prevalent in the oil and gas industry

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2020 | Oil And Gas Injuries

Among the many dangers you face if you earn your income in the oil and gas industry are chemical hazards. It is crucial for workers in this industry in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi to learn about the risks because the consequences of exposure are often progressive. The fact that there is no date of injury or onset of an occupational disease could complicate claims for workers’ compensation benefits.

Without proper protection, you could develop diseases that affect various organs, including your skin and lungs. Along with chemical hazards, excessive noise levels over time can cause hearing loss, and confined spaces can be death traps for untrained workers.

Mercury exposure

This natural element in gas and oil pose significant hazards when the liquid mercury condenses in separators, heat exchangers, piping, valves and coolers. If you are involved in the repair and maintenance of equipment, mercury vapor can harm the following:

  • Central nervous system
  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Kidneys

Chronic Mercury exposure can also cause the following:

  • Personality changes
  • Nervousness
  • Tremors
  • Stupor
  • Skin and eye irritation

Most of these conditions develop over extended periods of exposure.

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)

This gas is extremely toxic, even in low concentrations. It is a colorless and highly flammable by-product of the processes that purify natural gas and refine crude oil. Becoming familiar with the following aspects might prepare you for the hazards posed by H2S:

  • Heavier than air
  • Accumulates in low areas
  • Smells like rotten eggs
  • Exposure causes loss of sense of smell
  • Respiratory protection is crucial

Because H2S causes you to lose your sense of smell, it may catch you unaware, so always wear appropriate PPE.

Silica Hazards

The primary component of rock and sand is silica. Particles of respirable crystalline silica are too small for you to see, and when they become airborne, you will breathe them in if you do not wear respiratory protection. The minuscule particles then attach themselves to the inside of your lungs. Long-term silica exposure can cause an incurable lung disease called silicosis and lung cancer. Working with any of the following will put you at risk:

  • Cement, mortar and concrete in any form
  • Asphalt that contains stone or rock
  • Topsoil, granite, fill dirt and sand
  • Blasting abrasives

Most dangerous is hydraulic fracturing because the silica content in the sand used for this process could be as much as 99%.

NORM hazards

NORM stands for Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials present in the crust of the earth. These include radium, thorium, radon and uranium. Be cautious when you work with any of the following:

  • Drilling fluid
  • Sludge
  • Scale present on the oil recovery brine

Make sure you wear the necessary PPE when you transport, handle or dispose of these materials.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration have strict regulations and safety standards for the oil and gas industry. However, some employers do not comply, risking the health and safety of you and your co-workers. If you develop any of the life-threatening work-related conditions, you can claim workers’ compensation benefits. Proving your illness to be work-related will be easier if you utilize the skills of an attorney with experience in fighting for maximum benefits for workers in the gas and oil industry in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.