New Oil and Gas Occupational Health Risk Study

November 25, 2019
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment published the state-funded study, “Human Health Risk Assessment for Oil & Gas Operations in Colorado,” which was conducted by an external contractor. The Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association published a peer-reviewed article summarizing the study.
The study uses emissions data from oil and gas operations in Colorado to estimate what people could be exposed to as a result of oil and gas development. The study is not based on actual health impacts people have reported from oil and gas operations or on measured concentrations in the air surrounding the well pad.
According to the study, exposure to chemicals used in oil and gas development, such as benzene, may cause short-term negative health impacts (e.g., headaches; dizziness; respiratory, skin, and eye irritation) during “worst-case” conditions. The study found that there is a possibility of negative health impacts at distances from 300 feet out to 2000 feet. Since the study is a modeling study, it does not measure the actual concentrations people are exposed in areas surrounding well pads or the health impacts that people have reported.
“This study is the first of its kind because it used actual emissions data to model potential exposure and health risks,” said Environmental Programs Director John Putnam. “It is an important addition to the increasing body of knowledge about the potential health risks associated with oil and gas operations. As we learn more, we have a better roadmap for where we need additional research. However, while we pursue further research, we won’t delay enacting stricter emissions standards for chemicals that cause human health effects, ozone pollution, and climate change. This study just reinforces what we already know: we need to minimize emissions from oil and gas sources.”
The study calls for additional measurements to better understand how the model represents real-world conditions and how often people might be exposed worst-case conditions.
The “Human Health Risk Assessment for Oil & Gas Operations in Colorado” study stemmed from 2017, when the department released an evaluation of the existing science on oil and gas health impacts. The 2017 assessment looked at the health risks from certain substances using then-available air monitoring data. The department was concurrently funding a different study using 2016 Colorado State University emissions data from a number of oil and gas facilities in the Northern Front Range and Garfield County. The 2017 assessment called for further research into the possible health effects and exposures for people living close to wells.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT hazardous materials training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on a new Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
Fruit Farm in the Dalles Fined $37,800 for Job Safety Violations
Oregon OSHA has fined Orchard View Inc., a fruit farm in The Dalles, $37,800 for five job safety violations – four of them repeat offenses – including failing to train employees in the safe operation of tractors. The failures exposed workers to serious injury or death. 
The agency opened an inspection of the company in response to a confidential complaint. During the inspection, the agency found four tractor rollovers had occurred since 2012, resulting in three operators being injured. The most recent of those injuries happened in May when a tractor operator jumped from the vehicle when it rolled over on a steep incline.
The rollover problems prompted Oregon OSHA to expand its inspection of Orchard View. The inspection found employees had raised concerns with the company about parking brakes on John Deere and Kubota tractors not being able to hold the loaded vehicles on the steep slopes in the orchard.
The company could have addressed those concerns by training employees to know when to avoid too-steep slopes, posting hazard signs indicating such situations, or allowing the tractor operator to stay in the cab – in control of the vehicle – by assigning another crew member to help with the work in the field.
Instead, Orchard View had this advice for tractor operators: Shove a piece of wood behind the wheels or drive on flat land.
In fact, four of the five violations cited by Oregon OSHA involved the company failing to follow requirements for safely operating tractors. Those violations are:
  • Failing to ensure that parking brakes can secure loaded tractors on any grade on which they park, and on any surface free of ice or snow. 
  • Failing to train tractor operators to know when to stay off slopes too steep for safe operations in the orchard. Slopes that are too steep will likely cause a tractor to roll over. This was a repeat violation. 
  • Failing to train tractor operators to fasten their seatbelts when the tractor has a rollover protective structure. This was a repeat violation.
  • Allowing employees to operate tractors on a sloped hillside without rollover protective devices in the upright position. This was a repeat violation. 
“There are clear steps agricultural employers can take to control and eliminate hazards, and to provide proper safety training for their workers,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. “As this case illustrates, ignoring such steps only serves to put people in harm’s way.”
Oregon OSHA also cited the company for failing to ensure its safety committee – after evaluating tractor rollovers – made recommendations to managers to prevent such potentially fatal accidents from happening again. This, too, was a repeat violation. 
Missouri Contractor Fined $210,037 for Exposing Workers to Trenching Hazards
OSHA has cited Blue Nile Contractors Inc. – based in Birmingham, Missouri – for failing to protect employees from trench collapse and electrical hazards. The company faces $210,037 in penalties.
OSHA inspectors observed workers exposed to trenching and excavation hazards while installing water lines at a Kansas City, Missouri, jobsite in May 2019. OSHA cited the company for four repeat and five serious safety violations of trenching and electrical hazards, and placed the company in the Agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“Trench collapses can be quick and cause serious or fatal injuries, but they are preventable,” said OSHA Kansas City Area Director Karena Lorek. “Employers must ensure that there is a safe way to enter and exit a trench, cave-in protection is used, all materials are placed away from the trench’s edge, standing water and other hazards are addressed, and no one enters a trench before it has been properly inspected.”
OSHA recently updated the National Emphasis Program on preventing trenching and excavation collapses, and developed a series of compliance assistance resources to help keep workers safe from these hazards. The agency’s trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions.  The page includes a trenching operations QuickCard on protecting workers around trenches, and the “Protect Workers in Trenches” poster that provides a quick reminder of the three ways to prevent trench collapses.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Compensation Ordered for Employee Who Refused to Drive Without Safety Measure
OSHA has determined that UPS Ground Freight Inc. – doing business as UPS Freight – violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) when managers retaliated against a driver at the Londonderry, New Hampshire, facility. The driver had refused to operate a commercial motor vehicle that did not have either a permanent electronic logging device (ELD) or a mounting device for a portable ELD. OSHA ordered UPS Freight to pay the driver $15,273 in compensatory damages, $30,000 in punitive damages, and approximately $2,700 in back wages plus interest.
OSHA investigators determined that – in March 2019 – the driver refused in good faith to drive a truck without either a permanent ELD or a mounting device for a portable ELD because he believed doing so would violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). ELDs automatically record an operator's driving time and facilitate the accurate recording of a driver's hours of service. FMCSR required the driver to use an ELD, and the company to provide a vehicle with either a permanent ELD or a portable ELD mounted in a fixed position during his assigned route.
Investigators also determined that the driver's supervisor was not trained on FMCSR's requirements for ELDs, and that company managers attempted to coerce the complainant into violating the regulation. When he refused, the company terminated him for “gross insubordination.” The investigation revealed that the company later modified the driver's termination to a suspension and engaged in post-reinstatement harassment.
OSHA also ordered the company to take additional corrective actions to resolve violations of the whistleblower provisions of STAA, including:
  • Clear the driver's personnel file of any reference to the issues involved in the investigation;
  • Post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under STAA;
  • Refrain from firing or discriminating against any employee who engages in STAA-protected activity; and
  • Not use a driver's refusal to drive because of a good faith concern that doing so would violate a FMCSR as a contributing factor in any termination decision.
“Truck drivers are protected from retaliation when they refuse to violate laws put in place to protect their safety and health,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston, Massachusetts. “This order underscores the agency's commitment to protect workers who exercise their right to ensure the safety of themselves and the general public.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of STAA and more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.
Roofing Contractor Fined for Exposing Workers to Fall Hazards
Oregon OSHA has fined West Coast Roofing and Painting Inc. more than $12,000 for violating job safety rules, including exposing employees to falls that could seriously injure or kill them. 
This is not the first time Oregon OSHA has cited the Portland-area contractor for neglecting to follow fall protection requirements.
The latest citation stems from an inspection of a job site at a house in Portland, where employees of the company were tearing off an existing roof and preparing to install a new one. The inspection found four employees were exposed to falls of about 11 feet with no fall protection systems in place. 
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Oregon OSHA maintains rules for construction activities that specify the minimum height at which workers must be protected from falling. In the case of West Coast Roofing and Painting, the company failed to implement fall protection systems – such as a personal fall restraint system or other measures – where employees were exposed to falling six feet or more to a lower level. 
In fact, the company has now failed to heed that requirement three times since 2018. Two of those violations – including the latest one – were repeat offenses committed by the company within a month of each other this year.  
“There is never a good reason to ignore the need to protect workers from fall hazards, much less to repeatedly overlook rules that are designed to prevent serious injury or death,” said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. 
The inspection that led to the current citation also found other repeat violations on the part of West Coast Roofing and Painting. Those are:
  • Failure to protect an employee from the potential hazard of stepping or falling into an unprotected skylight on the second story of the house
  • Failure to provide a record certifying that employees were trained in fall-protection systems 
Under Oregon OSHA rules, penalties multiply when employers commit repeat offenses. The citation against West Coast Roofing and Painting carries a total proposed penalty of $12,440. The fine amount includes a standard penalty reduction based on the small size of the company, which employed about 16 people at the time of Oregon OSHA’s inspection. 
Safety News Links