Oil fields are full of dangerous risks from many different sources. Toxic gas leaks are one of the biggest dangers that workers face on mining sites. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 60 deaths due to hydrogen sulfide gas from 2001 to 2010 in the United States, which equates to an average of about six people per year. However, more updated figures show that this is becoming a much more wide-reaching and common problem for people around Texas and the rest of the United States.
In terms of more recent data from the BLS, there were 130 workplace fatalities in 2018 reported among workers in quarries, mining, oil, and natural gas extraction. This number also includes accidental deaths in other industries, but certainly this figure holds relevance, as hydrogen sulfide poisoning is a leading cause of gas inhalation death in these industries per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
So, how many people die from H2S a year? It is a figure that is likely higher than officially reported because some causes of death, such as H2S inhalation poisoning, can be difficult to determine, especially the poisoning led to other accidents like a slip and fall from great height, as can happen in an oil field. There is no solid figure to use from authorities, but it is clear the problem is a growing trend, given anecdotal evidence online as well as the population growth of the fossil fuel workforce. Hydrogen sulfide can also become dissolved in other liquids or substrates, and enter into a toxicity risk that way. For example, because the gas is heavy and can collect in the bottom of a well, it can create well water with high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, which leads to another toxicity risk.
There are also numerous other occupations that create the risk of exposure to H2S gas, such as dairy farming, agricultural work, utilities maintenance, and other underground work.
As oil production capacity has grown in the past decade, so too have the risks from hydrogen sulfide gas exposure to the working population in the oil and gas industry. More executives have entered the industry, and not enough has been done to proactively keep them in compliance with the law. As a result, corners get cut, and workers’ health gets risked. Employees are not obligated to enter into working conditions that carry unreasonable risk. All dangers must be properly marked and accounted for.
The Dangers of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas
Per OSHA, hydrogen sulfide is often called swamp gas or sewer gas. It has a distinct, pungent, revolting smell similar to rotten eggs. According to OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning can include:
- Skin and eye irritation
- Tremors or convulsions
- Difficulty breathing
- Digestive disturbances
- Loss of consciousness
There are many problems that H2S gas can create for human health, so detecting the presence of this gas in your workplace has to be as high a priority as any other safety precaution to protect human life.
Hydrogen sulfide is a gas that is denser than regular air, so it falls down to the ground and stays close to the floor level, only accumulating up from that level. This makes it especially dangerous when accumulating in low-lying areas, caves, or underground. Since oil mining works in these areas, these workers have a more elevated risk of H2S gas exposure.
Per OSHA, H2S can be fatal in high enough quantities. Part of the problem is that the sense of smell is often used to detect this poisonous gas. The issue is that the gas is so poisonous, in high enough concentrations or after prolonged exposure, it can overwhelm a person’s sense of smell, and ruin their ability to sense smell. The person in this situation is often unaware that they have already lost their sense of smell, and may take the lack of perceived scent as a green light of safety, when in fact it is the opposite.
While some rough averages can be calculated, we really do not know how many people die from H2S a year. Globally it is not something enough data is kept about. Hydrogen sulfide causes preventable deaths all over the world, in many different settings both in industry and domestically. More needs to be done to collect data points across industries and other verticals to truly be able to answer this question.
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Contact Loncar Lyon Jenkins Today
Loncar Lyon Jenkins represents workers who were injured or killed in Texas oil fields by hydrogen sulfide gas.
Hydrogen sulfide is expensive to detect, but such early detection can save lives. It is extremely important for oil and gas executives to be aware of the dangers of hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning, and to do everything in their power to mitigate those risks. There are steep penalties for bosses who cut corners on detecting hydrogen sulfide gas. There is no other reliable way to test for hydrogen sulfide gas than to use the proper detection equipment.
If you or a loved one were poisoned by H2S exposure, call our toll-free line to ask your remaining questions. We have an operator standing by via 800-777-7777.