Carter Craig, Attorneys at Law

Engine vapors pose hazard to oil and gas workers

Mixing non-intrinsically safe motors and engines with flammable gases or vapors could have catastrophic consequences, and workers in the oil and gas industry in Virginia and other states across the nation may want to take note. Between 2005 and 2015, the ignition hazard posed by vehicles and motorized equipment used in proximity to flammable vapor sources such as wellbores, flowback tanks, production tanks and frac tanks resulted in 85 deaths, according to industry officials. This tally includes 27 fatalities that occurred in connection with the use of mobile engines and auxiliary motors.

In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Service, Transmission, Exploration & Production Safety Network have issued a hazard alert. The alert focuses on preventive measures and engineering controls and contains points intended for review with employees.

Employees should have specific duties in shutdown operations and be cognizant of emergency procedures. If an engine 'runs away" or 'over revs", workers should immediately evacuate the area. This condition indicates the presence of a gas or vapor cloud and means that the danger of a fire or explosion is imminent. In addition, a Fire Risk Assessment is recommended to ensure that motorized equipment is safely positioned on the site.

The hazard alert may raise awareness of some unsafe workplace conditions, but it provides no guarantee that workers will not be injured on the job. Virginia workers who are hrmrd in incidents involving engine gases or vapors may find it beneficial to seek advice from a lawyer who is experienced in workers' compensation law.

Source: OSHA/NIOSH/National STEPS Network Alliance, "Mobile Engine Hazard Alert 053117," May 2017

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