Inherent in certain industries are conditions that pose potential hazards to workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the federal Department of Labor, sets and enforces standards and provides education and training, and South Carolina has its own OSHA plan as well. However, not every known hazard has established OSHA standards for permissible exposure to workers.
Workers in the oil and gas extraction industry are known to be exposed to diesel exhaust, which contains diesel particulate matter. OSHA reports the conclusion that limited exposure to diesel particulate matter can cause headaches, dizziness and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, and prolonged exposure can cause cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer. Affected workers are subject to exposure primarily through working around or near trucks, generators or compressors.
Nonetheless, OSHA has not established an official standard for exposure to diesel particulate matter, but it has standards for certain of the particulate’s components. For instance, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide all have exposure standards, and OSHA literature indicates the presence of diesel exhaust can be tracked by monitoring those component gases. OSHA does provide a fact sheet recommending methods of administrative controls and engineering controls designed to reduce diesel particulate matter.
For a worker who is injured in a job-related task, worker’s compensation is often the first remedy. There is some controversy over whether a violation of OSHA standards is sufficient to take the claim out of the worker’s comp jurisdiction and permit the injured worker to bring suit against his or her employer. A worker’s compensation lawyer may be able to assess a workplace injury accident and recommend an action.