In a recent cooperation between NIOSH, the government agency for researching work-related injury and illness, and private partners in drilling and well servicing found that workers involved in flowback operations where exposed to elevated levels of benzene, a known carcinogen.
The preliminary results of their study were published on the CDC blog last month. The study was conducted by taking urine samples of workers at the end of their shift. The study also included, “short-term and full-shift personal breathing zone and area air sampling for exposures to benzene and other hydrocarbons.”
NIOSH found that flowback technicians were exposed to benzene as they opened hatches on the top of flowback tanks to take manual level readings. The tank level would have to be checked several times a day during a 12-hour shift. The exposure levels were above NIOSH recommendations, but below the legal limit set by OSHA.
While the results of the study are still considered preliminary, NIOSH wasted no time in making a few critical recommendations. The first of them was to “develop alternative tank gauging procedures so workers do not have to routinely open hatches on the tops of the tanks and manually gauge the level of liquid.”
Makes sense, right? Using a tank level sensor and a control system, rather than a manual gauge like a stick, limits the lion’s share of the exposure, thereby increasing worker safety substantially.
In fact, 4 of the 9 recommendations NIOSH made had to do with removing workers from the source of the benzene exposure – the flowback tanks.
Benzene exposure, and exposure to many of the volatile organic compounds found in fracking liquids and hydrocarbons, is a known risk of working in the Oil & Gas field. Using the right level sensor (one that lasts a long time and gives reliable readings) dramatically reduces exposure.
Tank level sensors are very important to safety, especially in such dangerous work as oil, gas, and chemical production and processing. They prevent worker exposure and tank overfills. Check out our ultra-robust tank level transmitters designed specifically for the Oil & Gas fields. Let us know if you have any questions.