Two government health and safety agencies have joined forces to produce a new hazard alert on the danger facing oil and gas industry workers who manually gauge or sample fluids on production and flowback tanks.

Health and Safety Risks for Workers Involved in Manual Tank Gauging and Sampling at Oil and Gas Extraction Sites” explains that the risk associated with opening tank hatches to gauge or sample hydrocarbon levels manually arises from exposure to hydrocarbon gases and vapors, oxygen-deficient atmospheres, and fires and explosions. The 13-page publication, a joint effort by OSHA and NIOSH, also outlines 10 preventative steps encompassing engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment.

The two agencies have identified nine deaths that took place from 2010-2014 while workers manually gauged or sampled production tanks. All occurred at crude oil production tanks where the victim was either performing tank gauging or fluid sample collection at an open vehicle hatch. At the time of the accident, the employee was unprotected from high concentrations of hydrocarbon gases and vapors or displacement of oxygen and either was working alone or was not being observed by a coworker.