Hydrogen Sulfide Exposure in the Oil and Gas Industry

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is responsible for many injuries and deaths due to toxic exposure in the oil and gas industry. H2S is a colorless gas with a characteristic odor of rotten eggs. However, persistent exposure to air concentrations above 100 ppm produces odor fatigue, which impairs the ability to detect the odor of rotten eggs. The clinical effects of H2S depend on its concentration and the duration of exposure. H2S has been referred to as the “knock down gas” because inhalation of high concentrations can cause immediate loss of consciousness and death. H2S is immediately fatal when concentrations are over 500-1000 parts per million (ppm). Exposure to lower concentrations, such as 10-500 ppm, can cause various respiratory symptoms that range from rhinitis to acute respiratory failure. H2S exposure may also affect multiple organs, causing temporary or permanent harm to the nervous, cardiovascular, lung, kidney, liver, and blood systems. The long-term effects of H2S can also include neuropsychiatric injuries and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Since exposure to H2S is a potential problem in the transport and storage of crude oil and in natural gas production, preventive measures are extremely important to protect workers from dangerous levels of exposure to H2S. Personal protective equipment for workers should include safety glasses, respiratory protection or equipment, and long-sleeved shirts. In addition, limiting exposure at the work place and the use of a personal safety gas detector may aid in the protection of employees working with potential H2S exposure. It is also important to have a safety plan in place in the event of exposure to a toxic level of H2S and this safety plan should include the immediate application of oxygen and immediate transport of the exposed worker to a proper medical facility for emergency treatment.

Oil and gas industry workers who have been exposed to toxic levels of H2S have suffered injuries that cause temporary or permanent disability or even death. These workers and their families can be confronted with lost wages from time missed at work, a substantial amount of medical bills, and a great deal of physical pain and mental suffering. Sometimes in order to get your life back in order and to be fairly compensated for all of the lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering it will be necessary to hire an attorney who can help with documenting the injuries and making the claims to insurance companies and in a courtroom. It is best to call an attorney as soon as possible after the H2S exposure as there are notice requirements and deadlines to file claims requirements in the law. If ever the need should arise we at Powell & Garcia, The Law Firm located in Karnes City, Texas stand ready to provide you with the legal assistance you will need in a case of H2S exposure.