Tank Gauging & the Hidden Dangers of the Oilfield

At Arnold & Itkin, we've represented hundreds of oilfield and oil & gas extraction workers. We've seen every kind of accident imaginable, from men whose heads and necks were crushed by falling pipes to veteran workers who suffered from long-term lung disease due to decades in the industry. Our investigative teams have uncovered some truly surprising things—and we've found that what causes an accident are not nearly as cut-and-dry as you might think. Read below to read about a discovery from only two years ago.

Similar Deaths Across the Nation

In 2012, a North Dakota oil and gas worker was found unconscious near the open hatch of a holding tank he was gauging. When he was brought to the hospital, he was pronounced dead. The cause of death? Heart attack. The young man was 21 years old. His death was eerily similar to a 2010 fatality where an oil and gas worker died from a sudden heart attack while performing tank gauging.

These deaths were reported in 2013 by an occupational medicine physician from University of California San Francisco to OSHA and the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). NIOSH and OSHA conducted their own investigation and found nine (9) total deaths from 2010 to 2015 of men who were otherwise healthy and suffered sudden heart attacks while performing tank gauging.

Four of these deaths occurred in 2014 alone.

Their investigation revealed that hydrocarbon holding tanks, when opened to perform gauging or fluid sampling, expose workers to a local atmosphere of HsS and other hydrocarbon gases and vapors. Of the 9 total deaths discovered by the NIOSH and OSHA, only 3 were initially classified as work-related deaths caused by hydrocarbon gases. Only 1 of them was provided with a respirator.

What This Means for Workers

It's worth noting that heart disease is the number one killer of men in the United States. What that means is when these men were admitted to the hospital, their causes of death weren't investigated like they should have been. It's easy to imagine that the employer, the doctor, and other witnesses simply chalked it up to tragic luck—a sad story of a sudden and fatal heart attack.

If it weren't for the California physician who submitted his findings, there might still be several deaths a year occurring without anyone realizing that it was poor safety standards that led to their accidents. That's at least 9 families who would have been left without answers—after already losing their husbands, fathers, and brothers.

This is exactly why people call Arnold & Itkin: our team is committed to getting you answers. The companies and doctors mentioned above stopped short of identifying exactly why these men suffered heart attacks without warning. None of them could have known about the other deaths nationwide—but an experienced injury lawyer's job is to know these things.

Our oilfield injury lawyers stay abreast of the dangers of the industry to help families find closure, to help them get justice for their loss. Should you ever need it, we'll do the same for you.

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