In some industries, where chemicals are processed or tank gauging is done, exposure to toxic hydrocarbon vapours or gases can overwhelm workers. This can lead to serious health consequences as workers are exposed to oxygen deficient air. Normal oxygen levels in the atmosphere stands between 20 and 21 percent. When this percentage drops to 19.5 and reduces further, it can threaten the safety of workers. This is why it is essential to invest in a suitable oxygen depletion system. It will detect low levels of oxygen in air and trigger an alarm, prompting facility owners to evacuate the facility and/or resume oxygen supply to workers.
Oxygen Deficiency Led To Death of Worker In Steel Mill
In a March 2016 incident at Canton, a worker was found dead in the elevator control room at TimkenSteel, while he was performing fire extinguisher checks. The death was attributed to the leakage of nitrogen in the enclosed space, which led to depletion of oxygen levels. The company was cited by OSHA for two repeated and four serious safety violations, apart from failing to train workers in how to detect nitrogen leaks.
Stefanie Valentic said in a recent article:
“The alloy steel bar and tubing manufacturer recently was the subject of an OSHA investigation after a March 20 incident in which a worker was found dead in the elevator control room while performing monthly fire extinguisher checks. An investigation determined nitrogen leaked into the control room resulting in an oxygen deficient atmosphere causing the worker’s death.”
The penalty amount for the violations amount to $113,131, which is a steep price to pay when you ignore worker safety.
Oxygen Deficiency Occurs When Oxygen Levels Dip Below 19.5
Dizziness, fatigue, loss of co-ordination between hands are just some of the many symptoms that can be seen in workers who are exposed to oxygen deficient working environments. This is more often noticed in confined spaces, oil and gas refineries, chemical plants and gas pipelines. It can occur when another gas fills up the work area, depleting the air of oxygen and threatening the safety of workers.
Anya Litvak said in a recent article:
“The normal range of oxygen in the air is around 21 percent. Anything below 19.5 percent is considered oxygen deficient.
When the same worker was found dead over an open tank hatch three weeks after his doctor’s visit, his oxygen level had gotten as low as 7 percent.”
Natural gas vapors from butane, propane and pentane can overwhelm workers, endangering their safety. This continues to be a cause for concern especially for workers involved in tank gauging.
Oxygen deficiency needs to be monitored using advanced oxygen depletion systems and sensors. This will help in ensuring a safe work environment, while keeping productivity levels up.