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FOG Special Topic Report

Fatalities and hospitalizations related to the ignition, inhalation, or suspected inhalation of hazardous gases and vapors while handling fluids at oil and gas sites: 2015—2016

Data Sources: The NIOSH Oil and Gas Sector Program maintains a database, Fatalities in Oil and Gas Extraction (FOG) that collects data on fatal events in the oil and gas extraction industry. Fatalities are identified through a variety of sources including OSHA, media reports, and professional contacts.  Hospitalizations are identified through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) severe injury data set. This special report provides an update on fatalities and hospitalizations associated with hydrocarbon gases and vapors (HGVs) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the oil and gas extraction industry.

Case Definition: The following definition was developed to identify cases: During 2015—2016, fatalities or hospitalizations related to the ignition, inhalation, or suspected inhalation of HGVs and/or H2S while handling process fluids (e.g. fluid transfer) or working on tanks containing process fluids at oil and gas well sites or waste water disposal sites. Process fluids include waste water, flowback, petroleum condensate, or crude oil. Waste water is also sometimes referred to as produced water, brine, salt water, etc., but often still contain hydrocarbons.

Summary Points
During 2015—2016, eight oil and gas worker fatalities were identified that met the case definition (see Table 1).

  • Event Type: Three workers died of sudden cardiac death with potential exposures to hazardous gases and vapors, two workers died due to fire/explosions, two workers died due to hydrogen sulfide poisoning, and one worker died due to HGV exposures.
  • Activity Type: Four workers died while transferring fluids from tanks to trucks, two workers were tank gauging or sampling, one worker was at an open tank hatch with unknown activity, and one worker was doing hotwork (grinding) on top of a tank.
  • Fluid Type: Four workers were working with produced water, three workers were working with crude oil, and one with flowback.
  • Site Type: Six workers died at well sites and two workers died at waste water disposal sites.

During 2015-2016, ten hospitalizations were identified that met the case definition (see Table 2).

  • Event Type: Five workers were hospitalized due to fire/explosions, three workers hospitalized due to H2S exposure, and two workers hospitalized due to HGV exposures.
  • Activity Type: Six workers were tank gauging or sampling, one worker was transferring fluids, one worker was using a vacuum truck to remove tank bottoms, one worker was draining condensate from a separator line (i.e. heater treater), and one was transporting waste water.
  • Fluid Type: Three workers were working with produced water, one with flowback, one with tank bottoms (solids and waste), one with condensate, one with crude oil, and three were unknown.
  • Site Type: Nine workers were injured/exposed at well sites and one worker was injured at a waste water disposal site.
Table 1. Worker Fatalities Related to Inhalation or Ignition of Hazardous Gases and Vapors, Oil and Gas Extraction Workers, 2015—2016
Year Age State Event Type* Activity* Fluid Site Ruled Cause of Death
1 2015 59 ND Exposure: harmful substance  (H2S) Undetermined (at open tank hatch) Crude Oil Well Site Poisoning due to inhalation of H2S  gas
2 2015 20 OK Explosion (combustion) or fire Hotwork and welding Produced Water Disposal Site Asphyxia due to drowning in tank following explosion
3 2015 29 TX Exposure: harmful substance  (H2S) Tank gauging or sampling Crude Oil Well Site Poisoning due to inhalation of  H2S  gas
4 2015 20 WV Exposure: harmful substance  (HGVs) Tank gauging or sampling Flowback Well Site Asphyxia due to exposure to HGVs
5 2016 46 ND Cardiac event: possible work exposure Fluid transfer Produced Water Well Site Arteriosclerotic heart disease
6 2016 66 OK Cardiac event: possible work exposure Fluid transfer Crude Oil Well Site Hypertensive Heart Disease
7 2016 38 TX Explosion (combustion) or fire Fluid transfer Produced Water Disposal Site Burns/smoke inhalation
8 2016 54 TX Cardiac event: possible work exposure Fluid transfer Produced Water Well Site Arteriosclerotic and Hypertensive Heart Disease

*FOG Variable

Table 2. Worker Hospitalizations Related to Inhalation or Ignition of Hazardous Gases and Vapors, Oil and Gas Extraction Workers, 2015—2016*
 Year State  Event Type**  Activity**  Activity Details  Fluid  Site  Injuries Reported 
1 2015 CO  Explosion (combustion) or fire Fluid Transfer Connecting truck line Unknown Well Site Burns
2015 ND  Explosion (combustion) or fire Separation equipment activities Draining Condensate from treater line Condensate Well Site Burns
2015 ND  Exposure: harmful substance (HGVs) Tank gauging or sampling Unknown Well Site Exposure resulting in hospitalization
2015 ND  Exposure: harmful substance (H2S) Vacuum truck activities Pulling tank bottoms Tank bottoms, solids and waste Well Site Exposure resulting in hospitalization
2015 TX  Explosion (combustion) or fire Tank gauging or sampling Opening tank hatch Produced water Disposal Site Burns
2015 TX  Explosion (combustion) or fire Tank gauging or sampling Flowback monitoring Flowback Well Site Burns
2015 TX  Exposure: harmful substance (H2S) Truck transport Produced water Well Site Exposure resulting in hospitalization
2016 CO  Exposure: harmful substance (H2S) Tank gauging or sampling Produced water Well Site Exposure resulting in hospitalization
2016 CO  Exposure: harmful substance (HGVs) Tank gauging or sampling Crude Oil Well Site Exposure resulting in hospitalization
10  2016 TX  Explosion (combustion) or fire Tank gauging or sampling Unknown Well Site Burns/smoke inhalation

*This table includes incidents that were reported to OSHA from states with federally run OSHA programs from 2015 through 2016.
**FOG variable

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