Powered by Google logoTranslate
Alert: Certain pages on OSHA's website will be unavailable beginning the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 1 through the morning of Sunday, Oct. 2.
To file a complaint, report a fatality or severe injury, or ask a safety and health question, call 1-800-321-6742.
Back to Safety and Health Topics Page

Health Hazards Associated with Oil and Gas Extraction Activities

Oil and gas well drilling and servicing activities involve the use and production of potentially hazardous materials. OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and industry and safety groups continue to evaluate the type and extent of chemical and other health hazards across the industry.

Potential health hazards are highlighted below. See Standards and Enforcement for more information on evaluation and control requirements.

Highlight: NIOSH Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposures

NIOSH has initiated a field effort to assess chemical exposures in the oil and gas industry. Workers, managers, supervisors, and health and safety professionals involved in oil and gas drilling and servicing operations are encouraged to participate in the field effort. For more information see: NIOSH Field Effort to Assess Chemical Exposure Risks to Gas and Oil Workers*.

Highlight: Hydraulic Fracturing
Highlight: Hydraulic Fracturing

During the 2000s, there has been an increase in hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas extraction industry. NIOSH has initiated a field effort to assess chemical exposures in this industry. NIOSH identified exposure to airborne silica as a health hazard to workers conducting some hydraulic fracturing operations.

For more information, see:

Hydrogen Sulfide

Oil and gas wells can release hydrogen sulfide and expose workers to hydrogen-sulfide gas. The three best practices to help prevent injury and death are: active monitoring for hydrogen-sulfide gas; good planning; and training programs for workers. The following OSHA and NIOSH documents provide guidance on recognizing and controlling this hazard:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide Gas. OSHA's Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing eTool. Describes hydrogen-sulfide hazards in the oil and gas industry and possible solutions.
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S). OSHA QuickCard™ (Publication 3267). Addresses hydrogen-sulfide hazards in brief.
  • Respiratory protection as it relates to oil fields. OSHA Letter of Interpretation, (April 14, 1993). Addresses respiratory protection in the oil and gas industry.
  • Respiratory Protection. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Addresses respiratory protection and associated standards.
  • Hydrogen Sulfide. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety & Health Topic. Lists NIOSH publications and current research into occupational hydrogen sulfide exposure.

Relevant industry practice documents applicable to this hazard include:

  • API 49 Recommended Practice for Drilling and Well Service Operations Involving Hydrogen Sulfide
  • API 55 Recommended Practices for Oil and Gas Producing and Gas Processing Plant Operations Involving Hydrogen Sulfide
  • API 68 Well Servicing and Workover Operations Involving Hydrogen Sulfide
  • IADC H2S Safety Handbook
  • IADC H2S Safety for Oil, Gas & Petrochemical Industry
  • IADC H2S Safety in Drilling and Production
  • IADC Oilfield H2S Safety Training
Silica

Workers might be exposed to respirable crystalline silica during processes that use sand, such as hydraulic fracturing. The following OSHA and NIOSH documents provide guidance on recognizing and controlling this hazard:

Silica
  • Silica, Crystalline. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page.
  • Silica Exposure during Hydraulic Fracturing*. OSHA Infosheet (Publication 3622), (2012).
  • Worker Exposure to Silica during Hydraulic Fracturing. OSHA-NIOSH Hazard Alert, (2012). Discusses the health hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing and focuses on worker exposure to silica in the air.
  • OSHA's Directive CPL 03-00-007, titled National Emphasis Program - Crystalline Silica, has detailed information on silica hazards, guidelines for air sampling, guidance on calculating PELs for dust containing silica, and other compliance information.
  • Silica. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety & Health Topic. Lists NIOSH publications and current research into occupational silica exposure.

Relevant industry practice documents applicable to this hazard include:

Noise

Oil and gas workers can be exposed to harmful noise levels during equipment operation. The following OSHA and NIOSH documents provide guidance on recognizing and controlling this hazard:

  • Occupational Noise Exposure. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Addresses noise hazards and associated standards.
  • Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety & Health Topic. Lists NIOSH publications and current research into occupational noise exposure.

Relevant OSHA and national consensus standards applicable to this hazard include:

  • Occupational noise exposure 1910.95. Note: 1910.95(o) states: "Paragraphs (c) through (n) of this section shall not apply to employers engaged in oil and gas well drilling and servicing operations."
Diesel Particulate Matter

Diesel engines power a variety of machinery, vehicles, and equipment on a drilling site. Workers might be exposed to harmful levels of diesel particulate matter during the operation of these engines. The following OSHA and NIOSH documents provide guidance on recognizing and controlling this hazard:

  • Diesel Exhaust. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Addresses diesel-exhaust hazards and associated standards.
  • Diesel exhaust. OSHA Chemical Sampling Information. Addresses exposure limits, effects, and monitoring methods.
  • Diesel exhaust. NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. Addresses exposure symptoms and measurement criteria for diesel exhaust.
Hazardous Chemicals

Workers who use hazardous chemicals during work processes, especially during hydraulic fracturing, might be exposed to hazardous byproducts of oil and gas drilling. The degree of potential hazard depends on individual chemical properties and toxicity, but possible hazards include chemical burns from caustic substances and inhalation of toxic vapors. All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, and train them to handle the chemicals appropriately. Establishing effective engineering controls and work practices can reduce potential worker overexposures. The following OSHA and NIOSH documents provide guidance on recognizing and controlling these hazards:

Hazardous Chemicals
  • Respiratory protection as it relates to oil fields. OSHA Letter of Interpretation, (April 14, 1993). Addresses respiratory protection in the oil and gas industry.
  • Hazard Communication. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Addresses hazard communication and associated standards.
  • Personal Protective Equipment. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Addresses PPE and associated standards.
  • Eye and Face Protection. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Addresses eye and face protection and associated standards.
  • Respiratory Protection. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Addresses respiratory protection and associated standards.
  • Hazardous Materials*. OSHA's Harwood Grant Training Materials. Covers handling of hazardous materials in the oil and gas industry.
  • Chemical Safety. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety & Health Topic. Lists NIOSH publications and current research into chemical safety in the workplace.

Relevant OSHA and national consensus standards applicable to these hazards include:

Relevant industry practice documents applicable to these hazards include:

  • AESC (Association of Energy Services Companies) EC 600 Hazardous Communication Compliance Guide
Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM)

NORM might be released from oil and gas formations. Workers at risk of exposure include those who handle pipes and equipment that might have been contaminated with NORM. Sludge, drilling mud, and pipe scales, for example, often contain elevated levels of NORM, and the radioactive materials might be moved from site to site as equipment and materials are reused. Disposal, reuse, and recycling of NORM might cause worker exposures. The following OSHA and NIOSH documents provide guidance on recognizing and controlling this hazard:

Relevant national consensus standards applicable to this hazard include:

  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission 10 CFR 39, Licenses and Radiation Safety Requirements for Well Logging.
Temperature Extremes

Well-site workers are exposed to extreme temperatures and should take precautions to stay safe. The following OSHA and NIOSH documents provide guidance on recognizing and controlling this hazard:

  • Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers. OSHA. Lists resources and controls to prevent heat-related illness.
  • Protecting Workers from Heat Illness*. OSHA-NIOSH InfoSheet (Publication 3438), (2011). Provides information to employers on measures employers and workers should take to prevent heat-related illnesses and death.
  • Occupational Heat Exposure. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Provides information on heat-related illnesses, first aid, and prevention measures.
  • Protecting Workers from Heat Stress*. OSHA QuickCard™ (Publication 3154). Covers heat stress in brief.
  • Cold Stress. OSHA Safety and Health Guide. Provides information on cold stress, and preventing injury and disease related to cold weather.
  • Heat Stress. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety & Health Topic. Lists NIOSH publications and current research into occupational exposure to high temperatures.
  • Cold Stress. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety & Health Topic. Lists NIOSH publications and current research into occupational exposure to high temperatures.
Fatigue

Workers might experience fatigue due to long shifts and when working multiple days in a row. The following OSHA and NIOSH documents provide guidance on recognizing and controlling this hazard:


*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

All other documents, that are not PDF materials or formatted for the web, are available as Microsoft Office® formats and videos and are noted accordingly. If additional assistance is needed with reading, reviewing or accessing these documents or any figures and illustrations, please also contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300.

**eBooks - EPUB is the most common format for e-Books. If you use a Sony Reader, a Nook, or an iPad you can download the EPUB file format. If you use a Kindle, you can download the MOBI file format.

Back to Top

Thank You for Visiting Our Website

You are exiting the Department of Labor's Web server.

The Department of Labor does not endorse, takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the linked organization or its views, or contents, nor does it vouch for the accuracy or accessibility of the information contained on the destination server. The Department of Labor also cannot authorize the use of copyrighted materials contained in linked Web sites. Users must request such authorization from the sponsor of the linked Web site. Thank you for visiting our site. Please click the button below to continue.

Close