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Column: Quantitative Risk Assessment of Toxic Gas Hazards

Source: Health and Safety Middle East | 14 July 2014

Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as self-contained breathing apparatus, protective clothing, safety glasses, boots, and gloves are widely used in today’s oil and gas industry. Temporary refuge shelters as well as fresh air supply systems are normally recommended when the presence of highly toxic gases is possible.

The question is how to avoid a large number of fatalities or serious injuries in the case of undesired toxic gas release or toxic liquid spill and how deeply should one look into the safety equipment and systems? With companies in the oil and gas industry operating globally, they are always worried about their reputations because huge markets could be lost. Companies, therefore, are concerned about the health of employees, the effect of their business on the environment, the capital investment from one side, and the amount of money they will need to invest in order to practically and reasonably avoid a catastrophic release of toxic substances.

Some may believe the greater the investment in safety, the safer the industry will be. While this may be common sense, history shows this is not true. This article shows a risk-based methodology to try to find an optimized solution, which takes into consideration the reasonable amount of investment required for safety in the industry, to avoid the occurrence of a major accident hazard (MAH). This is done by identifying components that contribute to these hazards, as well as suggesting methods to either eliminate these components or provide recommendations that make the risks tolerable.

Heat Mitigation Measures in Shell’s Qatar Pearl GTL Construction Project

Source: Health and Safety Middle East | 14 July 2014

The extreme heat stress conditions present in Qatar during the summer months require the implementation of stringent control measures to protect the health and safety of the workforce.

Pearl GTL

During the years of construction, Pearl GTL—the world’s largest gas-to-liquids plant in the world—developed its Beat the Heat campaign, taking into consideration learnings and best practices from across the industry, other countries in the region, and across the globe.

In order to minimize the risk, a multipronged approach was taken under the canopy of the Project Heat Stress Prevention Procedure, based on the traditional risk-management concept of identify, assess, control, and recover.

Qatar’s massive Pearl GTL facility, built in partnership with Qatar Petroleum, took more than 500 million man-hours to construct. At its peak, the construction workforce reached nearly 53,000 people.

Public Health England: Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Low Risk to Human Health if Properly Regulated

Source: Shale Energy Insider | 30 June 2014

Public Health England (PHE) has published the final version of its review of the potential public health effects of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction.

PHE has reviewed the literature on the potential public health effects of exposures to chemical and radioactive pollutants as a result of shale gas extraction. It has concluded that the currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health in the vicinity of shale gas extraction sites will be low if shale gas extraction is properly run and regulated.

Where potential risks have been identified in the literature, the reported problems are typically a result of operational failure and a poor regulatory environment. Therefore good on-site management and appropriate regulation of all aspects from exploratory drilling, gas capture, use and storage of fracking fluid, and post-operations decommissioning are essential to minimize the risk to the environment and public health.

Researchers Unveil Ways To Reduce Environmental, Health Risks of Shale Gas Extraction

Source: West Virginia University | 30 June 2014

A new study by researchers at West Virginia University offers 10 recommendations for reducing the environmental and human health effects associated with horizontal drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process.

The recommendations address air, noise, and light pollution; water management; and engineering flaws associated with horizontal gas well development and completion.

The study, titled Practical Measures for Reducing the Risk of Environmental Contamination in Shale Energy Production, is co-authored by Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, John Quaranta, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Michael McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.

Gas extraction from shale gas formations has been made possible by recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology. In the eastern United States, the Marcellus formation gas play is one of the nation’s major natural gas reserves and, in West Virginia alone, nearly 3,000 horizontal wells have been developed since 2008.

While rapid adoption of these methods has led to a surge in natural gas production in the United States, it has also increased public concern about its environmental and human health effects.

“These facilities are often located within a few hundred meters of homes and farms, many of which are supplied by shallow water wells,”  Ziemkiewicz said. “As a result, many of the public’s concerns focus on air and groundwater pollution as well as light and noise associated with horizontal drilling and well completion. This study was initiated largely due to these public concerns.”

Ziemkiewicz, along with the other researchers, conducted a thorough review of environmental literature relevant to shale gas development and examined more than 15 Marcellus shale facilities in northern West Virginia.

NIOSH Seeks Help To Characterize Risks During Chemical Flowback

Source: OSHA | 16 June 2014

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is requesting assistance from oil and gas stakeholders to better characterize the types and magnitude of risks for exposing workers to volatile chemicals during oil and gas extraction. NIOSH is also seeking recommendations for developing and implementing exposure controls.

A new blog on NIOSH’s website summarizes flowback operations, addresses related reports of recent worker deaths, and identifies preliminary recommendations to reduce the potential for hazardous exposures. NIOSH is focusing interest on this subject after learning about several worker deaths associated with flowback operations through media reports, OSHA officials, and members of the academic community.

Health Effects Institute Creates Committee To Examine Effects of Unconventional Oil and Gas Development

Source: Health Effects Institute | 19 May 2014

In response to a growing need to improve the understanding of potential effects of recent increases in gas and oil development, independent research organization Health Effects Institute (HEI) has convened a special committee of experts to develop a strategic plan to guide future research on the potential health and environmental impacts of unconventional oil and gas development in the Appalachian Basin.

This initiative, supported by a number of foundations in the region, aims to produce a summary appraisal of what we know today by late 2014, and a strategic plan to answer key questions by the middle of 2015.

Colorado Legislative Committee OKs Oil and Gas Health Impact Study

Source: Denver Post | 2 April 2014

A plan for a detailed analysis on the potential health impacts of oil and gas development on the Front Range was approved on 1 April by a state legislative committee.

The analysis, to be done by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will cover six Front Range counties and cost an estimated USD 700,000.

“Fear is driving communities to bans and moratoriums, and fear shouldn’t be the motivation,” said Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, sponsor of the bill that creates the study.

Four municipalities and Boulder County have adopted bans or moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing, a key technique in drilling.

Under the bill, the state health department will review existing health studies and conduct a health survey among randomly selected residents.

Health and Safety at Work: Companies Shift Attitudes

Source: Safe to Work | 3 March 2014

The approach to occupational health and safety is changing for the better all over the world.

Companies are shifting from a reactive attitude to a conscious management of operational issues, a prelude to the development of a real corporate culture of occupational health and safety.

These are the findings of an international survey conducted by DNV GL—Business Assurance and the research institute GFK Eurisko on more than 3,860 professionals from businesses in different industries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

Health & Safety Management

Managing health and safety at work has become an integrated part of today’s corporate strategy. More than 90% of people surveyed agree, and 76% state they even implement an ad hoc policy, above and beyond what is required by law and regulations.

The bigger the corporation the higher the application rate, but, surprisingly, 70% of small firms adopt specific approaches, too.

Workers Need More Protection From Silica Dust, Report Finds

Source: US National Library of Medicine | 28 January 2014

More action is needed to reduce illness and death among the millions of Americans exposed to silica dust at work, according to a new report.

It has long been known that silica—a natural substance found in most rocks, sand, and clay—causes the lung disease silicosis, and evidence has mounted in recent decades that silica causes lung cancer, said report coauthor Kyle Steenland, of the School of Public Health at Emory University.

“Current regulations have substantially reduced silicosis death rates in the United States, but new cases of silicosis continue to be diagnosed,” Steenland said.

Third Fatigue Management Workshop Held in Brazil

Source: IPIECA | 18 December 2013

IPIECA and the International Oil and Gas Producers Association held a workshop on managing fatigue in the oil and gas industry from 11–12 November 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The workshop was hosted by Petrobras and had more than 60 participants from operating and service companies, regulators, fatigue consultants, and modelers as well as academics and representatives from other industries. Excessive human fatigue can have significant adverse outcomes on individual safety, health, and productivity and, in safety-critical industries, fatigue can contribute to major incidents.

Career Spotlight: Health and Safety Engineer

Source: Rigzone | 6 December 2013

For anyone interested in a well-paying, challenging, and rewarding oil and gas job that offers opportunities for relocation and comes with a lot of responsibility, one need look no further than a position falling under the category of health, safety, and environment (HSE).

There are several different positions covering a variety of industries under HSE. A health and safety engineer within the oil and gas industry plays a critical role in preventing mishaps, keeping workers healthy and injury-free, and, in general, helping to keep operations running smoothly and safely.

The position offers a number of challenges, including the need to prevent fires, explosions and emissions of contaminants into the workplace and atmosphere. They also map out ways to reduce a company’s emissions of carbon and to reduce or prevent work-related illnesses of company employees.

Beyond the moral obligations that companies have to workers and the environment in which they operate, there are potential legal ramifications and other financial concerns associated with an unsafe working environment, such as increased sick leave, employee turnover, the payment of disability benefits, and increased health care costs.

UK Report Sees Low Public Health Risk From Shale Gas Hydraulic Fracturing

Source: Reuters | 1 November 2013

The risks to public health from emissions caused by hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and gas are low as long as operations are properly run and regulated, the British government’s health agency said on 31 October.

Public Health England (PHE) said in a review that any health effects were likely to be minimal from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves the pumping of water and chemicals into dense shale formations deep underground.

Because there is currently no fracking in Britain, the PHE report examined evidence from countries such as the United States, where it found that any risk to health was typically because of operational failure.

“The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated,” said John Harrison, director of PHE’s center for radiation, chemical, and environmental hazards.

“Good well construction and maintenance is essential to reduce the risks of groundwater contamination,” he added.