Legislation demands the implementation of a health and safety plan built around extensive monitoring but is somewhat vague on just how frequently this monitoring should be carried out or with what technologies, particularly in relation to chemicals such as benzene and other VOCs. However, for facilities managers looking to raise the standard of protection, modern VOC detectors will automatically detect harmful chemicals before they become a problem.
While detection strategies for combustibles and hydrogen sulphide on offshore oil and gas facilities are well understood and effectively implemented, detection strategies for toxic by-products such as benzene and toluene are less well specified.
The need to maximise availability and to implement the most challenging of drilling plans, while all the time meeting stringent health and safety requirements, places immense pressures on offshore facilities managers. The goal of an effective health and safety plan on offshore oil and gas facilities should be more frequent or even continuous monitoring, offering assurances that zero contamination readings really do mean zero contamination.
Health and safety requirements define exposure limits to the extremely toxic benzene, for example, as no higher than 1ppm over a time-weighted average (TWA) eight hour day, or 5ppm for 15 minutes as a short-term exposure limit. Guidelines give an indication of the areas that should be monitored, but are somewhat vague when it comes to how frequently monitoring should be carried out.
It is believed that many cases of ill health are almost certainly due to inhaling toxic vapours, even if today that is impossible to prove.
However, there is still no doubt that the cost of ill health is becoming very expensive. The problem is that with chemicals such as benzene being so aggressive in the smallest concentrations, having a health and safety plan in place does not necessarily guarantee either health or safety.
The question is one of how best to monitor for these chemicals, and the practical implementation of a health and safety plan is often to perform spot checks. But this provides, at best, only an incomplete picture of any toxic chemicals present, and at worst can provide a completely false picture. The goal of an effective health and safety plan on offshore oil and gas facilities should be more frequent or even continuous monitoring, offering assurances that zero contamination readings really do mean zero contamination.