An oil spill may occur in different places: close to the coast, in terminals and ports, rivers, lakes. on land, roads, highways, etc.
Crude oil contains a variety of different types of hydrocarbons. The exact composition depends on its origin. The oil may also include a number of elements such as sulfur and nitrogen-containing compounds.
The toxicity of crude oil will depend on it's properties.
Human exposure occurs by means of inhalation of light and toxic components in the air.
Absorption through the skin. Why at every oil spill is there a photo like the one on the right showing oil on someones un-protected hand.
Ingestion with contaminated food and drink containers. Left was in North America, it just shows people will put there health at risk anywhere.
Injection is on form that is usually forgotten until it happens.
During a clean-up in Southern Ireland we had a small clean space for food and drink breaks. The team was broken into three to feed and work.
Humans need parental control. The first team ate and drank everything, leaving nothing for the other two teams.
So when the next break came along everyone who missed out the first time threw their tools on the ground and ran for the food.
What was left behind was rakes and other hand tools with the pointed parts pointing up so any unsuspecting person could step on the point and spend a long time in hospital changing his contaminated blood.
The amount of oil released during a spill may be subject to:
Results of the above actions reduce the oil original volume, as well as its flammability and toxicity. The extent of these actions will depend on the chemical-physical factors of the oil itself and current environmental conditions.
Having said all this I find in Azerbaijan the town of Naftalan, 160 miles north-west of the capital Baku, there is a clinic where visitors voluntarily flock to its famous clinics to bathe in crude oil. The practice has supposedly been around for centuries and is believed to treat scores of illnesses, including arthritis, rheumatism and psoriasis. The crude found around Naftalan is too heavy to be usable in industrial applications or to be exported, so it is designated for 'medicinal' use instead.
Patients lower their bodies into 35 gallons of crude oil, at a temperature of 40 degrees.
Many of them say the warm oil relaxes their joints and they'd love to spend more than 10 minutes soaked in black oil, but since it contains almost 50% naphthalene, a hydrocarbon deemed potentially carcinogenic by EU regulations, longer sessions could be hazardous to their health. The clinic's doctors claim millions of people have been treated at Naftalan over the years, and none of them have suffered any complications, as a result. Still, to be on the safe side they limit the sessions to 10 minutes, and no more than a bath per day, during a 10-day treatment.
The treatment is one thing. Words cannot describe the stupidity of the photo right which was taken during the Maconda spill, Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
There are known heath problems involved with crude oil so why would you decide to jump in up to the top of your head with no protection at all is completely beyond me.
The first thing to do is evaluate the risks and see if it is really necessary to enter a hazardous area. It’s also necessary to check the ignition potential of the product and fire and explosion hazards.
Fire or explosion is the major risk during oil or refined product spills. Such risk will depend upon the substance and location. Therefore these items should be evaluated prior to the response actions and through operation. Explosion risks include burning, projection of fragments and atmospheric overpressure.
Photo left is a gasoline pipeline fire in Nigeria this is common in some countries where people steal the gasoline in the bowls seen in the forground. On this occasion more than 300 people died and many others were badly burned.
A fire will occur if there is sufficient flammable vapor, including oxygen and sources of ignition. Sufficient flammable vapor may be initially present in spills, although more flammable components usually evaporate faster (light and volatile). All sources of ignition shall be kept outside the area. All equipment needs to be intrinsically secure. Special care shall be taken concerning handling of fuel in boats/ships, engines, etc.
Where there is risk of a flammable atmosphere the area shall be tested and assessed using an instrument that provides instant reading, such as an explosimeter. Simpler explosimeters provide readings between 0 and 100% of the LFL (Lower Flammability Limit) that constitutes the minimum concentration of combustible gas/vapors in the air, capable of generating combustion in the presence of an ignition source. Such equipment shall be properly calibrated and operated by qualified personnel. They will allow reading of the oxygen percentage, close to the lower explosive limit (LEL), and will detect the presence of toxic gases. If there are fire and explosion hazards, the lower explosive limit (LEL) should be kept below 20%. Entering into such areas shall not be permitted until it is properly ventilated and tested.
The majority of explosimeters show a reading error in concentrations below 14 to 16% of oxygen. Therefore, along with the explosimeter, an oxygen concentration gauge or an oxy-explosimeter should be used.
Where there is fire and no risk of it causing any damage to people or properties, the best option is to allow the fire to burn until it extinguishes itself. This option may be assessed upon considering the size and extent of the spill, fire status, adjoining properties and environmental damage. At the time of burning, different gases are released as a result of combustion; therefore only qualified personnel may be allowed to go near the flames. During a fire, the highly toxic compounds released presents great risks to health due to the formation of compounds such as carbon monoxide, dioxides and others.
We should always take into consideration the wind direction in the event it is necessary to go near clouds of gases or vapors - always follow windward. Such clouds are usually found close to oil/water separators, in refinery areas.
There are photo-ionizers (PID) that detect the presence of toxic organic and some inorganic vapors which indicate the qualitative direct reading of many products. They are very useful for a more accurate environmental assessment.
Entry in Confined Spaces
Entry without using breathing device - Use ventilation to keep the air breathable. Do not introduce oxygen. Avoid static discharge. Air testing shall be continuous. A safety observer will be positioned outside the confined area.
Entry using breathing device - Air breathers or air reservoirs shall be used. A safety line shall be used. Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) tests shall be continuous. Rescue services shall be available the all times.
As the operation goes on, the risks of inhalation are reduced due to oil intemperization. It is assumed that after 48 hours, major risks shall be associated to ingestion or contact with the product. Major risks to health relate to inhalation of sulfidric gas (H2S) and benzene vapors, low oxygen concentration or high total hydrocarbon vapor concentration. Refined products may have a great amount of sulfidric gas, volatile aromatic hydrocarbons and polycyclic-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Oxygen (O2) concentrations below 19.5% are a condition considered as IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health).
Occupational and Climatic Conditions
Bad weather conditions may hinder the work of the oil spill cleaning team. The currents and winds will spread oil and increase its covering area; heavy rain associated to the increase of river currents shall also hinder the operation. Bad weather increases the risk of accidents when using boats, airplanes, barriers, collectors and dispersant application systems. The possibility of workers' exposure to vapor may be increased or reduced. It is essential that an appropriate assessment is made immediately.
Windchill charts like this one from NOAA left show how the temperature can drop dramatically with a wind blowing across the area. The colours show frostbite times in 30, 10 and 5 minute dependent on wind speed.
Now think of a spill in a remote cold area where helicopters have to be used. The down draft will well exceed 60mph.
Blood vessels throughout the periphery of the body contract themselves to minimize the effects of the heat loss when exposed to low temperatures.
Freezing usually occurs when the tissues freeze, followed by cell damage. Humidity conditions combined with low temperatures and wind may cause damages to tissue before freezing. This may be detected by the presence of swellings, pain, blisters and ulcerations.
Photo left shows the right hand with frost nip you can see how the tissue swells and it is very painfull as the hand warms up. There will be no lasting damage to the fingers.
Photo right shows frost bite the black is where the tissue has been frozen and died at the extremities. The bulging blisters will probably be saved but the finger ends will be lost.
In 2000 Sir Ranulph Fiennes attempted to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole. The expedition failed when his sleds fell through weak ice and he was forced to pull them out by hand.
He sustained severe frostbite to the tips of all the fingers on his left hand, forcing him to abandon the attempt. On returning home, his surgeon insisted the necrotic fingertips be retained for several months before amputation, to allow regrowth of the remaining healthy tissue. Impatient at the pain the dying fingertips caused, Fiennes cut them off himself with a fretsaw, just above where the blood and the soreness were.
In order to prevent such symptoms, it is recommended to wear isolating clothes and train the workers.
The logistic team should know where the personnel are being sent to and whether they have proper clothes to operate in a non-familiar area. A response team operating in an equatorial area will suffer the climatic differences when sent to work in a subtropical area. Acclimatisation maybe necessary.
The cold may cause hypothermia which is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions which is defined as 35.0 °C (95.0 °F). Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of 36.5–37.5 °C (98–100 °F) through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation. If exposed to cold and the internal mechanisms are unable to replenish the heat that is being lost, a drop in core temperature occurs. As body temperature decreases, characteristic symptoms occur such as shivering and mental confusion.
Extremities are the first affected body parts, i.e., hands, feet, nose and ears. If this loss of heat is maintained for a long period, people affected will present lethargy, mental confusion and disorientation.
The initial increase of the heart beating due to vessel constriction and shivering is followed by a drop of the heart beating. This is caused by insufficient oxygen being supplied to body tissues. There is a loss of blood volume and hypertension. The kidneys will not be able to produce water, resulting in dehydration.
The dangerous thing about hypothermia is that the person who has it does not know. The brain tells you everthing is fine and you do not feel the cold you just want to go to sleep from which you will never wake up.
Steel equipment can cause another problem for the unaware. Skin sticks to the surface and without warm water to remove it, it will be torn from the finger or palm. It feels like putting you finger end in super glue but the result is much more painful.
The use of the correct clothing will reduce these very painful problems.
The NOAA chart left shows how much effect humidity has in hot regions.
Extensive exposure to high temperatures may lead to discomfort, irritability and drop in performance.
Fluid loss: the average person looses 2-3 ltrs (4-6 pts) of fluid each day. Just resting in the shade we loose about 1 ltr (2pts) per day.
Just breathing looses fluid and this is increased by higher work rates and temperatures.
This must be replaced either with liquid or with liquid in food.
Becomes more noticable as the body looses more fluid. 75% of of our body weight is liquid. The average man has about 50 ltrs (11 gals).
Fluid loss 1-5%: Thirst, vague discomfort, lack of appetite, flushed skin, impatiance, sleepiness, nausea.
Fluid loss 6-10%: Dizziness, headache, laboured breathing, no salivation,indistinct speech, unable to walk.
Fluid loss 11-20%: Delirium, swollen tongue, unable to swallow, dim vision, numb, shrivelled skin.
In the later stages: there is gross muscular weakness and mental capacity is impaired.
Heat cramps are usually the first signs of heat exhaustion and occur in the muscles doing the most work: legs, arms and abdomen.
Usually due to the lack of body salt.
Symptoms: shallow breathing, vomiting and dizziness.
Treatment: Move to shade, drink water with salt (1 pinch to a pint 1/2 Ltr or Gatorade (simular).
Heat exhaustion exposure to high temperatures and humidity, with loss of body fluids through excessive sweating, produces heat exhaustion. It can occur without direct sunlight, lying on hot ground with poor ventilation.
Usually due to the lack of body salt.
Symptoms: Pale face, skin cold but sweaty, weak pulse, dizziness, weakness and perhaps cramps, patient may become delirious or unconscious.
Treatment: as for cramps.
Heat stroke most serious result of exposure to or overexersion in the sun.
Symptoms: hot dry skin, face flushed and feverish, no sweating, temperature rises, pulse becomes faster and strong, severe headache, vomiting, unconscious may follow.
Treatment: Lay in shade with head and shoulders slightly raised, remove outer clothing, cool body with tepid water (NOT COLD) and fanning, lay in a damp place with good ventilation, when conciousness returns give water to drink slowly, when temperature returns to normal replace clothing to prevent chill.
Sunburn actual burn with blisters is a real danger especially with pale or sensitive skin. If more than 2/3 of the body is affected it could prove fatal.
Treatment: avoid further exposure, keep in shade, take pain killers if available, cover all blisters with dressings DO NOT BURST.
If it is really necessary to expose workers to high temperatures, that should be done gradually. Further, they should drink plenty of water and be allowed sufficient rest. Workers should be trained to recognize heat stress symptoms and the measures to be taken in the event of insolation and dehydration.
Personnel working in the field shall be protected against excessive sun exposure. Sun exposure shall be controlled by providing the workers sunscreens, wide-brimmed hats and sun lotions. Work should be as minimal as possible if the sun is shining brightly. One-hour lunch break should be observed, and light meals, rich in carbohydrates, should be offered, as well as plenty of liquids.
Equipment and Chemicals Safety
Degreasers can be used, if permitted, in well ventilated areas, far from sparks, heat or flames, and the degree of explosivity of each product varies according to their chemical composition.
Extensive contact with a product may cause a degreasing effect of natural oils, resulting in scaling and inflammation of the skin and possibly dermatitis.
Vapors inhalation may result in dizziness, nausea, etc. Inhalation for long periods must be treated by removing the person to a fresh air location and then to medical assistance. Eyes, skin and respiratory tract shall be protected against sprays, and contaminated eyes shall be carefully washed with water.
Spilled products can cause slippery surfaces. Any spills shall be cleaned using a scrubber, proper absorbent material and then, rinsed with plenty of water.
Safety of the Access Area
Throughout local inspection, the access to the area shall be clean and the entire location carefully assessed. There shall be taken into consideration the slopes, river declivities, swampy areas, cliffs, low draft rivers, etc. and the actual need of workers accessing these remote locations.
Recommendations of people who know the area shall be taken into consideration, and guides shall be hired. Care shall be taken at places where oil spills have occurred and where the traffic of vehicles and heavy machinery is busy.
Venomous and/or Poisonous Animals.
The presence of venomous snakes are common in many countries close to a river. It is recommend that long rubber or leather boots are used when working at these kinds of sites.
Snakes in general will leave noisy areas though there are are some that have no fear in these situations, these are usually very toxic and will not back down so leave the area slowly.
Being bitten in tall grass will provide a problem in finding or knowing what exactçy bit you when you need anti-venom. Do not try the filmstar stupidity of sucking the poison out of the bite. onece in it travels very quickly through the blood stream.
The presence of beehives and hornets are common in quite areas. Some people are very sensitive to their poison. Frequently the teams include a large number of people performing the cleaning of contaminated areas.
The photo right shows my ankle after a tick bite which took me off work for two weeks.
Spider and scorpion bites may also be very hazardous. Check your boots before you put them on these insects like cool dark places to get out of the sun.
Care should also be taken concerning larger animals such as snakes, alligators, piranhas.
However, they leave the places where oil spills have occurred due to the disturbance resulting from the presence of vessels.
Base camps close to villages or places where fish and other food stuff is prepared may be feeding grounds for various types of preditorial fish.
Photo left is a black piranha from the River Negro in Brasil. In this case he is going to be eaten not me and very good he was too.
If branches or twigs are broken and white goo oozes from the break do not get it on your skin or near eyes.
Photo left is the result of poison ivy a plant from North America but every country has one or more.
Where workers have been hired to work at a great distance from each other communication between them and the supervisor is essential. Personal radios are an obvious solution. However consideration shall be taken as for the ability to use the equipment, as well as the requirement of a license. Provisions shall be made for use, by the appropriate personnel, of Personal Emergency Lights and Emergency Signaling Systems.
Verbal communication is not always possible due to the high level of noise from transfer pumps, collectors, air blowers, etc., within a scenario where an emergency has occurred, i.e., due to the use of personal protection equipment, such as protection masks which limit verbal communication. Therefore, the emergency teams should develope a set of manual signals that may be essential for the communication between workers in specific situations
Radio communication shall be accurate, short and effective. It is recommended that the members of the emergency response teams are aware of the International Phonetic Code.
INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC CODE
(Used for the Aeronautical and Marine Communication)
A ALPHA, B BRAVO, C CHARLIE, D DELTA, E ECHO, F FOXTROT, G GOLF, H HOTEL, I INDIA
J JULIET, K KILO, L LIMA, M MIKE, N NOVEMBER, O OSCAR, P PAPA, Q QUEBEC, R ROMEO
S SIERRA, T TANGO, U UNIFORM, V VICTOR, W WHISKEY, X X-RAY, Y YANKEE, Z ZULU
Upon making a call, identify yourself first and wait a while before calling again, otherwise you will talk at the same time as the person answering the call.
Be brief, do not use the frequency for extended periods. It is not a personal chat line so talk about the fishing when you are back onshore.
During a spill in the gulf of Mexico, I wrote this to inform people how many forms of communication there were. It is not the form of communication that is the problem it is the human who can be incapable of using any form at all.
These are all forms of communication we have used for a few years in some cases or many thousands of years in others, we have them all at our disposal.
Why then when a little problem arrives do we have so much trouble communicating with our colleagues in some cases even at the same table?
Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations define the requirements for first-aid trained people and equipment that should be available. The content of a first-aid box shall be defined by a doctor who is aware of the risks involved in an emergency response to an oil spill. The medications of a first-aid box shall be replaced immediately after consumption.
It is recommended that members of the pollution fighting teams have first-aid training, since usually oil spills occur in remote areas where immediate medical assistance is not found.
It shall be assumed that emergencies may occur and workers may have problems at the time of the cleaning operation. A list of the Emergency Procedures should be prepared including all possible contingencies. As long as practicable, all workers should be aware of these Procedures and the Supervisor should be fully familiar with them.
Safety Aspects Related to the Use of Vessels
At the occurrence of an oil spill, depth is an additional hazard involving the work carried out in rivers. Frequently it is necessary to hire a pilot who knows the area to conduct or give instruction to guide the vessel. Towing of barriers can be hazardous.
During a spill, there is usually a lot of oil on the vessel's deck, therefore increasing the possibility of slippery. If we find ourselves in a torrential river we must be careful not to fall.
Here are a couple of photos showing safety kill switches. When attached properly as in these cases, should the driver be thrown out of the boat the switch is pulled and the engine stops.
This is a very cheap way of saving you life, just make sure it works correctly by testing it before you start in some cases they have been found to need a small adjustment to work properly.
Branches in the water and waves can cause the boat to move violently or stop suddenly, in both of these cases the driver and others can be thrown into the water
Here we have a photo right showing what happens when you do not use a safety switch.
You get thrown into the water and the boat goes in ever small circles around you until you get a propellor across your back as it this photo right or you get killed when it hits your head.
I know it is a horrible photo but maybe when seeing this people will stop driving around on there own with no safety kill switches attached
Emergency teams who work onboard shall be quite familiar with the new risks they will encounter. Such risks shall be added to those existing in a normal oil spill fighting operation.
As for the use of vessels in oil spill emergency response, to perform monitoring or even to arrive at the spill area, the following safety aspects should be considered:
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and Collective Protection Equipment (CPE)
It is important to have available a PPEs kit previously prepared for the risk areas.
The selection of the PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment) shall depend on the product involved and its chemical characteristics. The ideal would be an emergency team to proceed to the spill area taking a bag of PPEs and upon arriving, wait for instructions of a qualified professional to define the appropriate PPEs needed and the clearance for work.
In general, personal protection equipments comprise gloves, boots, goggles, breathers, overalls, helmet and chemical protective clothing.
Workers must be protected against high and low temperatures, hazardous liquids and harmful gases. Exposure may occur by means of skin contact or inhalation through the nose or mouth. The best solution is to avoid workers' exposure to such risks.
The worst risks occur at the first hours immediately after the accident and are related, mainly, to inhalation of toxic vapors and/or gases. Depending on the situation, particularly in open spaces and locations with low concentration of vapors, an adequate level of protection may be achieved by using panoramic sight glass filter masks (with activated carbon). However, special attention should be given to filter saturation, time that the worker should leave the contaminated area in order to replace it.
Persons involved in the operation shall be familiar with the use of the PPEs, and shall further follow the correct practices related to their hygiene and cleaning.
Types of Personal Protection Equipment
These equipments will only be as effective as the persons wearing them. Operators shall receive maintenance and coupling instructions. Correct coupling is important to avoid chemicals to enter into the equipment. In confined spaces and high concentration of vapors sites or depleted oxygen atmospheres, independent breathing equipment shall be used.
Air purifiers, such as flasks, cartridges, filters, with air supply, where the operator receives pure air from a non-contaminated source, through a tube or hose.
Special care should be taken concerning the use of latex gloves when the work involves oil. This type of gloves is not appropriate since they lose their shape quickly in contact with the oil. Nitrile gloves are more appropriate to be used with oil.
Thin Leather Gloves
This type is frequently used when the work requires more efforts or for cargo handling.
Protective Clothing (Tivek)
Concerning the clothes, the choice shall be based on the type of product and the exposure level the worker will be subject (sprinkles, direct contact, immersion).
The following list contains some PPEs usually used by oil spill emergency response teams.
The isolation of the area to restrict the access is an important procedure to be carried out. Many persons, just out of curiosity, and non-qualified people, mix up with the members of the emergency response team at the time of an incident. They are a potential risk. Just imagine that in the event of a gas spill there is someone smoking close to it. Isolations are also carried out in areas that present hazards. Warning signs are also an important tool for isolating the area.
Isolation may also be applied to damaged machinery and equipment that represents a risk to the operation. This type of isolation is usually made by using labels.
Risk Management - Safe Operations
A risk is to identify and discuss all the possibilities of an accident occurring, attempting to avoid that it actually occurs.
The techniques of risk analysis have developed along with the rest of the human knowledge. Some major tools are described below:
The risk assessment is an exercise oriented towards the quantification of the maximum likely loss that may result from it, i.e., the quantification of the probability of this risk occurrence and its consequences/ severities.
Hazard is the property or condition existing in a substance or activity that may cause damages to people, properties or the environment.
Risk is the potential occurrence of undesirable consequences resulting from the performance of an activity.
Identification of Hazard
Identification of all hazards in the work place or spill location is a simple work that shall be carried out by the persons expected to perform it.
The supervisor in charge of coordinating risk assessment shall guarantee that all hazards are identified prior to taking the next step of the process. A hazard may be an object, a place, a process or a circumstance that has the potential of creating damage in the way of injury, delay or pollution. This stage of the work requires that each hazard should be named and listed.
Hazard potential - There is a simple system
Probability – The more probable it is that the consequences of a risk will be realised, the greater the risk. This is why insignificant dangers can produce high risk factors if they are certain occur.