March 9, 2023

NIOSH Video Highlights Hazards of Fluid Transfers in Oil and Gas Extraction

A new video published by NIOSH focuses on work practices for safer fluid transfers from storage tanks to tanker trucks in the oil and gas extraction industry. According to the video, at least 12 oil and gas workers died during 2016–2020 while transferring process fluids at well sites. Causes of death for these workers included cardiac events, combustion-related explosions, being struck by a vehicle, exposure to hydrogen sulfide, and heat stroke. Hazards during fluid transfers include the inhalation of chemicals such as hydrocarbons and hydrogen sulfide, the creation of oxygen-deficient atmospheres, and the potential for fires and explosions. NIOSH’s video stresses that the source of these hazards is the transfer of any process fluid, including produced water, flowback fluids, condensate, and crude oil. Recommendations for controlling these hazards are discussed according to the hierarchy of controls, with the video focusing on engineering controls, administrative controls, and the proper and consistent use of personal protective equipment, including multi-gas monitors, impermeable gloves, flame-resistant clothing, and self-contained breathing apparatus.

The video is intended for supervisors, managers, and workers at oil and gas extraction companies as well as employers and health and safety professionals in oil and gas or similar fields. It can be viewed on NIOSH’s website and on CDC’s YouTube channel. Additional resources related to oil and gas extraction are available from NIOSH.

Related: In 2015, media reports drew attention to the deaths of nine workers involved in manual tank gauging, sampling, and fluid transfer at oil and gas extraction sites. In all nine cases, which occurred at crude oil production tanks during the period 2010–2014, the inhalation of volatile petroleum hydrocarbons is considered a possible contributing factor. “By the Numbers” in the June/July 2015 issue of The Synergist included an infographic with information from various sources on these fatalities and reported exposures at other sites.