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Oil and gas waste company fined after employee suffers fatal injury

24 March 2023

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued citations to an oil and gas company after federal investigators found an employee suffered fatal exposure to hydrogen sulphide while working near a sump pit in September 2022.

Production Waste Solutions was cited for six serious safety and health violations after OSHA found the production waste facility exposed employees to serious chemical hazards. The company is located around 175 miles (281km) east of El Paso in Texas.

At the time of the incident, the employee was skimming and suctioning out sludge water and oil byproducts from the pit. Specifically, OSHA cited the company for:

- Exposing employees to inhalation hazards.

- Not training employees on hazards associated with hydrogen sulphide exposure.

- Failing to provide a quick body drench or eye flush station for employees in the immediate work area where corrosive materials were present.

- Not performing a hazard assessment to determine if personal protective equipment was needed.

- Failing to protect employees from fall hazards of more than 4 feet.

- Not protecting employees from contacting energised circuits.

OSHA assessed $39,064 in proposed penalties, which are set by federal statute.

"Hydrogen sulphide exists in oil and gas deposits, and it occurs naturally in sewers, manure pits, well water and oil and gas wells, which is one of the reasons work in confined spaces is potentially dangerous," explained OSHA Area Director Diego Alvarado in El Paso, Texas. "This terrible loss could have been prevented if Production Waste Solutions LLC had followed established safety procedures and provided federally required training and equipment."

The company has 15 business days from receipt of 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.

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