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Workplace injuries: Report highlights hydrocarbon exposure risks

Georgia workers have the right to safe workplace environments, and the ideal situation would be for workers to be confident in their employers' commitment to worker safety. One industry in which too many lives have been lost is the oil and gas industry. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that nine fatalities resulted from hydrocarbon exposure from January 2010 through March 2015. This is of great concern because such workplace injuries are preventable.

According to the CDC, safety and health professionals must be able to recognize the symptoms and warning signs of toxic exposure and act upon it. The nine workers who died were all overcome by hydrocarbon vapors and gases in spaces that were oxygen-deficient. These deaths led to a 2015 hazard report compiled and issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and others with an interest in the safety of workers in storage tanks.

The hazard report lists the of symptoms and warning signs of exposure, including confusion, dizziness, immobility and collapse. The report cites OSHA's requirements and adds additional tips that may prevent hydrocarbon-related fatalities in the future. Suggestions include collection points for fluid samples and monitoring of fluid levels. Also, ensuring that gas monitors are used properly and that OSHA's requirements for respiratory protection are met were included. Workers must be properly trained and should never be alone in areas in which risks exist.

When a loved one dies as the result of fatal workplace injuries, it is naturally a traumatizing experience. While grieving the loss, family members may be overwhelmed by the financial impact of end-of-life arrangements and the sudden loss of income. Fortunately, they may pursue workers' compensation death benefits. In Georgia, workers' compensation typically provides compensation to cover the costs of a funeral and burial, along with financial assistance to support the dependents for a designated period following the loved one's death.

Source: safetyandhealthmagazine.com, "CDC report highlights dangers of hydrocarbon storage tanks", Jan. 20, 2016

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