Risk of long-term chemical exposure in oil rig workers

Working in the oil and gas industry has many risks, including exposure to hazardous chemicals. However, exposure to these risks varies based on the type of job.

Toxic fumes are not immediate threats, but they can cause long-term health challenges. Those who work in the oil and gas industry should understand the risks of long-term chemical exposure.

Types of chemicals

Oilfields and rigs use many chemicals. The extraction process releases highly concentrated hydrogen sulfide. Workers may also experience silica, benzene, mercury vapor, diesel exhaust, asbestos, nitrogen oxide, xylene, sulfur dioxide, toluene contact. Hydrocarbon exposure is a risk for all workers.

Exposure locations

Those who handle these chemicals have the greatest exposure risk, but other workers are also at risk. There are several contact sites in the industry, including on drilling rigs; from generators and boilers; and in rail yards, waste pits and tank farms.

Health impacts of exposure

Workers who encounter these chemicals may experience fatigue, chemical burns, asthma, headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, difficulty sleeping, coughing and nausea. Employees can also experience eye, skin, nose and throat irritation. Long-term effects may include lung damage, cancers, neurological damage and death.

Proving long-term exposure

The best way to prove long-term exposure is through a primary care physician. Workers should also note every spill or direct contact they experience, list the chemicals they worked with and the equipment and training they received and file reports with their employers.

Protecting workers

Oil and gas companies should protect their employees by offering hazard communication and training. Labeling hazardous materials, and providing adequate protection for workers’ eyes, face, skin, hearing and respiratory system.

Individuals who have experienced long-term chemical exposure from the oil and gas industry can pursue medical reimbursements and long-term care, lost wages and pain and suffering.