Living in the Houston area, you often hear about fires in the oil and gas refineries. Some of these fires are contained without incident. There is a real risk for injury when one of these fires breaks out. Flash fire risks in the oil and gas industry cannot be ignored. When safety precautions aren’t taken, workers can get hurt. Industrial accidents can happen.
Flash fires pose a significant risk to oil and gas workers. A flash fire is an intense fire caused by the ignition of air and a dispersed flammable substance such as dust, combustible liquid, vapors, or gas. Flash fires burn quickly and at high temperatures. The National Fire Protection Agency defines flash fire as “A fire that spreads rapidly through a diffuse fuel, such as dust, gas or the vapors of an ignitable liquid, without production of damaging pressure.”
Flash fires burn so hot that they cause serious damage relatively quickly. The high heat of a flash fire raises the temperature of the surrounding air. If inhaled, this air can harm lung tissue. Also, flash fires can create intense smoke. The high heat of the smoke can cause smoke burns. Flash fires in confined spaces can kill worker through asphyxiation or smoke inhalation.
Preventing Flash Fires
It is important to educate workers on how to safely perform their jobs. Providing workers with the proper tools they need to do their jobs and a safe environment to work in is critical. It is imperative to keep the work area clear of accumulating dust or gas, to prevent flash fires.
Preventative measures for mitigating the risk of flash fires can include:
- Flame resistant clothing, such as Nomex. Flame resistant clothing is the last line of defense in protecting workers in the event of a flash fire.
- Safety training about identifying combustible materials such as dust and vapors.
- Hot work permit procedures that identify hazards and create a safety protocol for performing work.
- Oxygen and fuel vapor monitoring.
- Air filtering system to remove combustible dust from work areas, together with a facility cleaning program.
When safety measures fail, workers can be injured. Flash fires can be very dangerous to everyone in the vicinity. Employers must be vigilant in providing a safe work environment.
Where do Flash Fires Occur in the Oil & Gas Industry?
Although working in the oil & gas industry is inherently dangerous, there are areas where flash fires are more prevalent. Workers in these areas must receive the proper training and safety equipment.
Areas where the risk of flash fires are greater include:
- Drilling – Drilling into a hydrocarbon bearing zone that could release hydrocarbon vapors.
- Completions and Well Servicing – These jobs require handling of flammable liquids, fracking operations, and working close to open wellbores or frac flowback tanks.
- Gas Processing – This work near equipment containing hydrocarbons and maintenance on natural gas compressors can expose worker to flash fire dangers.
- Production – In particular, manually lighting burners, venting and blowing down process equipment, and transferring liquid hydrocarbons in or out of a transport truck.
- Hot-tap and in-service welding
Flash Fire Risks in the Oil & Gas Field are Dangerous Industrial Accidents
Employers must provide employees with a safe place to work. Although not all hazards can be anticipated, training employees can help keep them safe. So too, can providing workers with the equipment they need to safely do their job.
When a flash fire strikes and workers are injured, they may need the helped of a skilled personal injury to get the compensation they deserve. Contact Mynor E. Rodriguez today for a free consultation.