Sudden Deaths Among Oil and Gas Extraction Workers Resulting from Oxygen Deficiency and Inhalation of Hydrocarbon Gases and Vapors - United States, January 2010-March 2015

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Jan 15;65(1):6-9. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6501a2.


In 2013, an occupational medicine physician from the University of California, San Francisco, contacted CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about two oil and gas extraction worker deaths in the western United States. The suspected cause of these deaths was exposure to hydrocarbon gases and vapors (HGVs) and oxygen (O2)-deficient atmospheres after opening the hatches of hydrocarbon storage tanks. The physician and experts from NIOSH and OSHA reviewed available fatality reports from January 2010 to March 2015, and identified seven additional deaths with similar characteristics (nine total deaths). Recommendations were made to industry and regulators regarding the hazards associated with opening hatches of tanks, and controls to reduce or eliminate the potential for HGV exposure were proposed. Health care professionals who treat or evaluate oil and gas workers need to be aware that workers might report symptoms of exposure to high concentrations of HGVs and possible O2 deficiency; employers and workers need to be aware of this hazard and know how to limit exposure. Medical examiners investigating the death of oil and gas workers who open tank hatches should consider the contribution of O2 deficiency and HGV exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Gas Poisoning / complications
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / chemistry
  • Hydrocarbons / poisoning*
  • Hypoxia / complications
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Oil and Gas Industry*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrocarbons