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Escaping Petroleum Gas Dangers on Oilfield Sites

An improperly supervised oilfield or oil refinery can be an accident waiting to happen. However, sometimes the dangers are actually inherent in the job and there is no way for a worker to protect themselves from harm.

Employees tasked to take oil samples or gauge oil tankards are put in danger just by opening the thief hatch atop the tank. Unbeknownst to themselves, pressurized petroleum gases that have built up in the tank immediately begin to rush out of the opening, right into their faces. Inhaling the vapors cause unpredictable side effects, and may be fatal. Between 2010 and 2016, there have been nine confirmed oilfield worker deaths due to escaping petroleum gases, sometimes called “sweet gas”.

Workers are often told that they will be exposed to the gas for such a minimal amount of time – taking a reading may take a minute or two – that it is not a danger. This is not true. Immediate effects of inhaling petroleum vapors is a feeling of lightheadedness or drunkenness. Any amount of exposure can poison the blood, as each person’s body will react to the vapors uniquely. This means that someone could die from just breathing in petroleum gas for half a minute or so.

The task becomes even more dangerous due to the fact that oilfield management believe gauging an oil tank to be a quick one-person job. Unsuspecting workers go up the side of a crude oil tank, thinking they will be back with their friends and coworkers before they know it. If they pass out, no one knows they are in danger, and they continue to suffocate in the gases. In the nine reported petroleum gas deaths, all nine were alone at the time of their deaths.

If you have been asked to manually take oil samples from a crude tanker and have not been provided a respirator or a coworker’s assistance, you have been placed in unreasonable harm. Call 432.214.8125 to reach Dean Law Firm and our Midland personal injury attorneys. Much of our legal practice is focused on oilfield workers and their rights to compensation for injuries in the workplace. Learn more during a FREE case review.