OSHA Fines After Hydrogen Sulfide Death

This week the Department of Labor announced
an OSHA citation for workplace safety violations discovered by OSHA after an
employee was killed last September because of a hydrogen sulfide exposure while
working near a sump pit at a West Texas oil and gas treatment facility. The
OSHA assessed
were slightly more than $39-thousand and included citing the company

• Exposing employees to inhalation
hazards (H2S).

• Not training employees on hazards
associated with hydrogen sulfide 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 energized circuits.

Even though an employee died as a result of exposure to
hydrogen sulfide at the facility, there is no record that a report was made to
the Chemical Safety Board of the incident. The CSB’s database of reported
chemical incident lists 12 release incidents in September of 2022, only one of
which was from Texas (ExxonMobil in Houston, TX). There is no mention of this

While the CSB is empowered to refer non-reporting of covered
incidents to the EPA for enforcement actions under 42
USC 7413
and §7414
under 42
USC 7412
(r)(6)(O), the CSB made it clear in the preamble to the final rule for 40 CFR

“The CSB understands that its
independence from criminal and civil enforcement authorities is important to
its ability to accomplish its safety mission. As noted in the preamble, the
CSB’s focus will be on education and compliance, not on creating traps for the
unwary. Accordingly, the final language of § 1604.5 should pose no threat to the
special place the CSB has historically held with industry and other
stakeholders as a non-regulatory and non-enforcement agency. The CSB looks
forward to working with owner/operators and other stakeholders to help ensure

We are well past the one-year promised enforcement
moratorium promised
by the CSB, perhaps it is time to start considering referring
companies that do not report chemical release incidents, at least the most
egregious ones where deaths are a result of the release.