Oilfield worker clutching chest in pain after gas poisoning

Oilfield Injuries

What Oilfield Workers Need to Know About Hydrogen Sulfide Gas Poisoning

Posted by: Kemmy Law Firm

Many injury statistics on oilfields include accidents that result from explosions, fires, and being struck by large objects. However, a lesser-known hazard could pose an even more considerable risk to oilfield workers—hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning.

Even short-term exposure to this toxic substance could kill someone instantly or leave them with long-term respiratory issues. You must know the dangers of hydrogen sulfide poisoning, how to avoid it, and your treatment options. 

What is Hydrogen Sulfide Gas?

Hydrogen Sulfide—also referred to as H2S—is a highly toxic gas characterized by the smell of rotten eggs that naturally occurs in oil and gas wells.

The toxic fumes are released during the drilling process and pose a deadly risk to unprepared workers in the immediate area. Between 2011 and 2017, there have been 46 fatalities from Hydrogen Sulfide gas exposure, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are the Symptoms of Hydrogen Sulfide Gas Poisoning?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists the following symptoms of hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning you could experience depending on your level of exposure:

  • Nausea
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of smell

Workers exposed to 1000-2000 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide gas experience instant death.

What Could Increase Someone’s Risk for Poisoning?

While hydrogen sulfide gas is prevalent in most oilfields, some circumstances could increase your exposure risk. For example, employees working in confined spaces with limited to no ventilation could be overwhelmed with hydrogen sulfide gas, resulting in poisoning or death. Out of the 46 fatalities cited above, 36 of those occurred in confined spaces.

The amount of hydrogen sulfide you’re exposed to could also increase your risk for poisoning. In many cases, the smell of hydrogen sulfide gas warns employees that they’re being exposed to toxic fumes. However, levels of hydrogen sulfide exposure between 100-150 ppm may cause you to lose your smell, making you unaware of its presence.

In other cases, employees who haven’t received personal protective equipment like respirators or hoods are likely to be overwhelmed by toxic gasses and suffer from hydrogen sulfide poisoning.

How is Exposure to Hydrogen Sulfide Gas Treated?

Although there is no antidote for hydrogen sulfide poisoning, a nitrite found in the cyanide antidote kit has been used as a form of therapy. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Amyl nitrite is given by inhalation followed by a 300mg dose of intravenous sodium nitrite. Studies have also shown the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for severe hydrogen sulfide poisoning.

This therapy simply involves breathing in pure oxygen in a pressurized environment to increase the amount of oxygen in your blood. Since hydrogen sulfide exposure mainly impacts the respiratory system, many victims have been treated for their symptoms through hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Safety Measures Oilfields Must Take to Prevent Exposure

OSHA enforces strict guidelines regarding Hydrogen Sulfide gas exposure. When oilfield companies fail to follow these guidelines, and workers are exposed to deadly amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas, they could be liable for damages.

Oilfield companies must maintain the following standards to mitigate the risk of hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning:

If employers identify areas with high amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas, they must take necessary action to control exposure and inform employees of Hot Zones within the job site.

What to Do if You’re Exposed to Hydrogen Sulfide

If you’ve been exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas, or your loved one has died from this toxic substance, you have a right to seek compensation for your losses.

Many cases of hydrogen sulfide gas poisoning have been reported over the years. One specific case occurred in Midland, Texas, where an employee and his wife were found dead inside an oilfield facility after exposure to large amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas.

Follow these steps if you or a loved one were exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas:

Get Medical Attention

You should document your symptoms and seek a medical evaluation to determine if you’re experiencing hydrogen sulfide poisoning.

Keep a record of your doctor’s visit and diagnosis to strengthen your claim for compensation.

You might need compensation to cover ongoing medical care, or your loved one might have gone into a coma indefinitely, preventing them from providing for the family.

Contact an Attorney

An attorney could help you gather the evidence you need to hold all liable parties accountable for their actions. They’ll investigate your case and gather the necessary evidence to determine whether your employer’s negligence caused your injuries.

Were You Exposed to Hydrogen Sulfide? Call Kemmy Law Firm

Whether you’re currently dealing with symptoms or your loved one has passed away due to their employer’s negligence, the family of lawyers at Kemmy Law Firm are here for you. We’ll investigate your case to determine fault and help you recover total compensation for your damages. Contact us today at 844-334–4388 to schedule a free consultation.

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When you work with us at Kemmy Law Firm, you are working with a family run firm with more than 50 years of combined experience. We are dedicated and successful trial attorneys practicing in West TX, Hobbs, NM, Midland-Odessa, and across the Permian Basin. Our team handles everything from catastrophic injury claims to complex business matters. We are here to fight for you. We dedicate our time and attention to your case and use every resource available to maximize your claim and obtain the best possible outcome.