Your hydrogen sulfide sensor has gone off, indicating the presence of H2S in your work environment. Now, what do you do? Whether you smell that unique noxious odor or not, safety comes first so always assume H2S is present.
1. Put On Your Gear
If you’re not already wearing your gas mask but have one available and nearby, put it on. Now is the time to use that training you gave up overtime to go get, so use it. Pull your straps down tight, and breathe like you were taught. After yours is on, help anyone who is struggling. Your mask will help keep you safe while you clear the area. Requirements for having the masks vary from location to location depending the environment, so if you don’t have one available, don’t panic, just proceed to the next step.
2. Get Upwind
If you’re working in an area with the possibility of H2S release, there should be flags or wind socks on the work site to show you which direction the wind is blowing. Head in the opposite direction immediately. If you can’t see the wind sock, toss some dirt or leaves into the air, or look at the trees. The wind can blow and concentrate the H2S into valleys or stands of trees, so the direction you go is important. If a designated gathering area, or “muster site” is indicated downwind, go there. This is the easiest and most effective way to avoid H2S inhalation or poisoning.
3. Count Heads
It might not be your stated job to do the final “head count”, but safety is everyone’s business. Someone could have succumbed to H2S before clearing the pad, or have a faulty hydrogen sulfide monitor. If you saw someone at the job location but do not see them at the muster site, make it known. Do not attempt to get them from a dangerous area, and don’t go back into the gas to locate someone unless you are trained and have the proper equipment. H2S is no joke, and has taken down big, tough, strong men and women who thought they could handle “just a minute”.
4. Make the Calls
Calling the proper civil authorities ensures local residents and landowners are notified of the issue. Necessary evacuations can be made quickly to avoid injury. This action protects everyone, including your company and job, so again, their safety is your business. Once necessary emergency authorities are notified, make the calls to the company who owns the site. Numbers should be posted at both the joh location and muster site. If not, call your boss or the company “safety man”.
While it is important to act quickly in an H2S emergency, taking these measures will help keep you out of harm’s way and within regulatory compliance. Finally, always maintain your monitor and replace it as necessary. It knows before you do when H2S levels are too high.