Ask Texas oil workers and you’ll hear it from them: hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is the bogeyman in drilling. More than just offensive to the nostrils with its rotten-egg odor, hydrogen sulfide is extremely toxic, highly flammable, and very corrosive to metal. Sadly, it also causes permanent debilitation and fatalities in the oilfields every year.
Fortunately, there are effective ways oilfield workers can protect against H2S exposure. The best ways to guard against H2S poisoning are teaching oil and gas personnel about its dangers, implementing safety redundancy, and practicing for emergencies.
- Wear an H2S or multi-gas monitor. One of the best ways to guard against H2S is to wear an H2S monitor or multi-gas monitor that alarms for concentrations above 10ppm. Many rigs have staff wear monitors and have fixed monitors on the rig. Employers must ensure gas monitors are always in good condition.
- Don’t rely on sense of smell. Although humans are extremely sensitive to H2S odors, a sudden sniff of high concentration causes olfactory paralysis that could prevent you from smelling it at all. Listen to the H2S sniffer; report any alarm immediately to your supervisor and to people around you.
- Don’t assume it’s nothing. Heed every H2S alarm every time. H2S is potent enough to cause “knockout” – suddenly induced unconsciousness or even coma – that incapacitates and prevents escape. Thinking an alarm is “broken” or ignoring one to continue drilling risks personnel safety. In seconds, 10 ppm of hydrogen sulfide could turn into an incapacitating 500 ppm.
- Learn about the bogeyman. H2S has properties that influence its movement. Knowing more about it may mean the difference between running away from it and running straight into it during an emergency. For example, it can collect in low-lying areas since it is heavier than air. Its primary threat is as an inhalant. However, H2S is also highly flammable, and has fueled many lethal rig fires in the past. H2S can corrode metal, and there have been reports of derrick collapses caused by large concentrations of the gas. Again, knowing about it can potentially save your life during an emergency.
- Drill, drill, drill: know what to do. Doing regular safety drills can save lives. Most experts teach that you do not inhale if your H2S alarm sounds: depending on the rig, you may also be trained to don a positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Emergency protocol usually entails the crew evacuating the rig and running upwind to the designated muster point to wait for additional instruction from the leading driller.
Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but practice helps and saves lives.
Hold Your Employer Accountable
Oil and gas operations are required by law to document the presence of H2S on a well and report it to the Texas Railroad Commission. H2S clearly presents a major safety hazard to all on the rig, but this common gas can also complicate the drilling process in surprising ways.
Irresponsible managers may try to creatively circumvent H2S problems by continuing drilling anyway or saying that exposure to >10ppm of the gas is fine. Never be afraid to exercise your stop-work authority if you feel unsafe or to walk away from a job entirely if you feel your employer jeopardizes your safety. If you have been hurt, know that you have a voice.
Wyatt Law Firm Fights for Injured Oil & Gas Workers
Unfortunately, not all oil and gas companies invest in the necessary training and drilling time or resources that keep oil and gas workers safe. Sometimes, new hires receive little to no training at all, or employers do not replace faulty H2S monitors. As a result, oil and gas workers don’t go home to their families, or they go home with lifelong injuries sustained because someone else wasn’t doing their duty. Negligence for profit is unacceptable.
If you have been injured or your loved one has been killed in an oilfield accident, you could be entitled to legal compensation. Our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Wyatt Law Firm litigate complex cases, winning settlements for real people affected by the unexpected.
We represent oil and gas workers shortchanged by someone else’s negligence, and we do it because it matters to us. Call us today at 210-340-5550 for a free case review, or submit a confidential contact sheet via our website to get in touch.
We won’t let corporations try to write over your story. Let us tell your story.
Let us fight for you.
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