One of the highest grossing industries worldwide, the oil & gas sector employs hundreds of thousands of workers and generates hundreds of billions of dollars globally each year. Encompassing several different sectors, the industry includes the exploration, extraction, refining, transportation and distribution of oil and gas.
Each one of these stages relies on the oil & gas manufacturing sector to supply them with specialized equipment to complete their tasks. Products manufactured by the oil & gas industry include pipelines, storage tanks, pressure vessels, drilling equipment, refining equipment and their various parts.
The manufacture of heavy equipment in the oil & gas industry requires the manual or robotic welding of parts. An application that connects two separate metal parts using heat from an electric arc, welding is used to construct pipelines, beams, tools, equipment and machines in the oil & gas sector.
The fumes created by welding processes contain toxins that pose serious health risks to workers if inhaled. The type of toxin and the resulting illness depends on the type of welding as well as the material used. Common toxic metals found in welding fume include manganese, nickel, lead, chromium, beryllium and aluminum. Each metal poses its own unique health risk to workers. Lead, for example, can damage the nervous system, kidneys, digestive system and the brain. Fumes that contain nickel pose an increased cancer risk and can irritate the eyes, nose and throat.
Used in the fabrication of storage tanks, valves and other components, stainless and galvanized steel are common metals used in the oil and gas industry. The welding of stainless steel is especially dangerous as it exposes workers to the carcinogen hexavalent chromium (Cr6). Besides putting welders at risk for developing lung and nasal cancer, Cr6 can cause eye and respiratory irritation, birth defects, ulcerations, lesions, pulmonary congestion, edema and liver and kidney failure.
The particle size of the contaminants present is also a factor in determining how dangerous the weld fumes will be. The smaller the particles, the more easily they penetrate the lungs and the more serious the threat to worker health.
For pipeline fabrication, Metal Inert Gas (MIG) Welding is often used. Despite creating lower emissions, MIG welding still produces highly toxic fumes. Like other forms of welding, MIG welding puts workers at risk of developing a number of conditions including cancer. Other health risks associated with welding include:
Because weld fumes remain a serious threat to employee health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set guidelines for protecting workers in the industry. Failure to follow the permissible exposure limits (PELs) for airborne contaminants set by OSHA can result in serious legal and financial consequences for businesses.
To help keep companies in the oil & gas sector OSHA compliant, Diversitech provides a number of ventilation options. Capture-at-source remains the best for collecting toxic weld fumes and protecting worker health. The trusted choice of North America’s largest manufacturers, Diversitech offers various extractions arms, portable fume extractors and downdraft tables that collect harmful toxins before they have a chance to contaminate indoor shop air. For robotic welding, we recommend one of our robotic ventilation hoods or robotic weld cell collectors.
Also frequently used in the oil & gas sector, grinding and cutting removes or severs a portion of material from a larger workpiece using a cutting tool such as a grinding wheel. Businesses in the oil & gas sector use grinding in the manufacture of drill bits, gage blocks and wear parts.
Grinding and cutting creates large volumes of dusts that can negatively impact worker health. If not properly contained, these dusts also have the capacity to damage shop equipment.
Just like weld fumes, grinding dusts contain a number of different contaminants depending on the material used. Metal, composite, rubber and fiberglass are common toxins found in grinding dusts. Some of the more toxic metals include cadmium, lead and chromium. Lead is a well-known neurotoxin, chromium a carcinogen and cadmium can be fatal at certain levels.
Other health problems associated with grinding dusts include:
Cutters and grinders are also at risk of developing the condition called siderosis, or welder’s lung. A lung disease brought on by exposure to iron dust particles, siderosis has no known cure.
Many of the metals found in grinding dusts such as aluminum, titanium and magnesium, are also combustible and present a serious risk of fire and explosion. Installing proper ventilation to collect these explosible dusts is necessary to keep company workforce and property safe. To protect the welfare of workers, OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have recommendations for the safe capture of combustibles.
At Diversitech, we keep businesses in the oil & gas manufacturing sector OSHA and NFPA compliant every step of the way. Diversitech’s downdraft tables, dust control booths and cartridge dust collectors effectively capture grinding dusts. Our line of wet dust collectors and wet downdraft tables safely collect combustibles to eliminate the risk of fire and explosion.
Abrasive blasting cleans, strips or imprints an object by shooting it with small particles of material at high velocities. Blasting can also change the texture or remove surface contaminants on a piece of metal. Oil & gas applications that use blasting include:
The abrasive used as well as the substrate and coating being blasted produce vast amounts of dust that pose significant health risks to workers. Besides causing a wide range of illnesses, these dusts may also contain metals that are combustible, posing a risk of fire and explosion.
Common blasting materials that can harm worker health include coal, nickel and copper slag; silica sand; garnet sand; glass and steel grit and shot. Dusts from these materials can potentially damage worker lungs. Some slags used in the blasting process contain toxic metals like beryllium, arsenic and cadmium. Workers exposed to these metals run the risk of developing cancer.
Using silica sand as an abrasive, sand blasting is particularly hazardous for workers in the industry. A highly toxic material to humans, silica dust can be life-threatening if not properly contained. Exposure to silica dust may result in respiratory problems, lung cancer and the untreatable disease silicosis. With no known cure, silicosis may result in disability or even death.
Because of the highly toxic nature of silica dust, OSHA has developed stricter standards for worker exposure. Under new OSHA guidelines, the PEL is now 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air for workers as averaged over an 8-hour day. To meet these new requirements, businesses must install engineered control for the safe capture of silica dust from sand blasting.
To mitigate the dangers that blasting dusts present, Diversitech offers a range of ventilation solutions. Both our Airhawk Series of Cartridge Dust Collectors and EBM Dust Control Booths effectively capture airborne contaminants from blasting. Diversitech’s line of wet dust collectors safely collect combustibles to prevent workplace fire and explosion.