Hydrogen sulfide gas is often present in oil and gas production. It is a colorless, flammable gas with a strong odor of rotten eggs. When exposure to hydrogen sulfide occurs, it can cause immediate health effects and even death. Anyone working in the oil and gas industry should be aware of the dangers of hydrogen sulfide exposure and take steps to protect themselves from this dangerous gas. If you work in the oilfield, it’s important to know about the dangers of hydrogen sulfide exposure and take steps to protect yourself from this deadly gas.
What is Hydrogen Sulfide?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hydrogen sulfide (also known as H2S, sewer gas, swamp gas, sour gas, stink damp, and sour damp) is “a colorless, highly flammable gas with a strong odor. It is used in various industrial processes, such as refining crude oil and processing wool.” Hydrogen sulfide can be found naturally in crude petroleum, natural gas, and hot springs. It is also a by-product of decomposing organic matter.
OSHA notes that “hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air and will collect in low-lying areas. When released into the air, it can be detected by its characteristic rotten egg odor.” At high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide can be fatal. Workers in the oil and gas industry are at risk of exposure to hydrogen sulfide when working with or near crude petroleum or natural gas.
Employers must protect workers from hydrogen sulfide exposure. One way to do this is to provide workers with personal protective equipment. Employers should also monitor hydrogen sulfide levels in the work area and ventilate areas where concentrations are high. Anyone who suspects they have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide should seek medical attention immediately.
Hydrogen Sulfide Uses
Although hydrogen sulfide is best known for producing foul odors, this gas has several important uses. In the oil & gas industry, hydrogen sulfide is used to increase the efficiency of oil refining operations. In addition, this gas plays an essential role in manufacturing a variety of chemicals, including sulfuric acid and fertilizers. Hydrogen sulfide is also used in the food industry as an effective preservative. Despite its many uses, hydrogen sulfide is a highly toxic gas that can be fatal at high concentrations. As a result, workers in industries that use this gas must take precautions to avoid exposure. Wearing proper protective gear and using ventilation systems can help to reduce the risks associated with hydrogen sulfide exposure.
What are the Symptoms of Hydrogen Sulfide Exposure?
Hydrogen sulfide exposure occurs when workers are exposed to air contaminated with hydrogen sulfide gas. In high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide can be deadly. Symptoms of hydrogen sulfide exposure include:
- Tightness stomach pain
- Skin and eye irritation
- Difficulty breathing
Suppose you or someone you know has been exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas. In that case, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms may not appear for hours or even days after exposure, so it is critical to be monitored closely by a medical professional.
How is Hydrogen Sulfide Exposure Treated?
Fortunately, there are treatments available that can help to reduce the risk of serious health effects.
One of the most effective treatments is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This therapy involves breathing 100% oxygen in a pressurized chamber, which helps to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood and tissues. This increased oxygen level can help to reduce the severity of hydrogen sulfide poisoning and speed up the healing process. In addition, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help to reduce the risk of long-term health effects, such as brain damage.
If you have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide, it is important to seek medical attention immediately and ask your doctor about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
What should Oilfield Companies do to Protect Workers from Exposure to Hydrogen Sulfide?
Several reports of workers in the oil fields have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas in recent years. As a result, oilfield companies must take steps to protect their workers from exposure to this dangerous substance.
One way to do this is to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers who are likely to be exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas. This PPE should include gas masks and air filters specifically designed to remove this gas from the air. In addition, employers should train workers to use this PPE properly.
Implementing engineering controls is another way to protect workers from hydrogen sulfide exposure. These controls involve modifications to equipment or processes that can reduce or eliminate the release of this gas into the work environment. For example, hydrant systems can be designed to release less hydrogen sulfide gas when operated.
Finally, oilfield companies need to have a comprehensive emergency response plan in place in case of an incident involving hydrogen sulfide exposure. This plan should include evacuation procedures and contact information for medical personnel trained in handling this type of exposure.
Legal Options Include Negligence
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set permissible exposure limits for hydrogen sulfide, these limits are often not enough to protect workers from the long-term effects of exposure. As a result, many workers who have been exposed have contacted attorneys for legal help. In most cases, workers have successfully sued their employers and other companies involved for negligence. By holding employers accountable for exposing workers to dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide, these lawsuits have helped make the oil and gas industry safer for all workers.
What do I do if I have been exposed to Hydrogen Sulfide?
If you have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide poisoning in an oil field, you should do a few things.
First, seek medical attention if you are experiencing any respiratory symptoms.
Second, if your doctor says you have been exposed to hydrogen sulfide, contact our experienced oilfield accident lawyer at Morrow & Sheppard LLP and we can help you determine whether you have a case and what your next steps should be.