What is H2S?
H2S stands for “hydrogen sulfide,” a dangerous gas that appears as the result of natural gas drilling and crude oil drilling. It’s also a by-product of natural gas and oil production, a result of the treatment of wastewater, and shows up in sewers and various utility facilities.
Chemically, H2S is the direct product of the microscopic deterioration of certain organic substances that takes place where there is no oxygen. The telltale sign of the presence of H2S gas is a repulsive, rotten-egg odor that is virtually invisible because it is colorless.
More importantly, the gas is also highly corrosive, extremely flammable, and dangerously poisonous. Even death can result from improper monitoring for the presence of H2S, which has the ability to stop cellular respiration in the human body.
Why You Need Training in H2S Safety
Learning to prevent or minimize exposure to H2S is crucial. One reason is because the gas is invisible to the human eye, and even though it MAY carry a pungent smell, it can still be dangerous or fatal when inhaled in small doses. In many cases, by the time you’ve noticed the rotten-egg odor, you have already ingested a certain amount of H2S into your respiratory system. That’s precisely where the danger lies.
It is true that extremely small amounts of H2S give off the telltale odor, but repeated exposure to the gas can desensitize the body’s ability to smell it. This is when the issue of exposure becomes a serious medical situation known as “olfactory (smell) desensitization.” Once a person’s ability to detect the gas is gone, there is no longer a natural, bodily warning system for detecting the presence of H2S.
What Happens After Exposure?
H2S goes to work doing its damage on the body’s respiratory system by causing severe mucous membrane irritation. Later, more serious symptoms begin to show up, like damage to the central nervous system, stomach nausea, eye irritation, persistent headaches, convulsions, and in cases of heavy exposure, unconsciousness, the inability to breathe, coma and death can result.
The importance of Training
Because hydrogen sulfide works so quickly and has widespread impact on the human body, workers need to know how to detect it. This includes training in the operation and use of wearable sensors that can detect minute amounts of H2S and sound an alarm long before the gas accumulates to dangerous levels.
It’s important to know what to look for in choosing a reliable monitoring device. Factors like solid construction and quick response are essential, as are wireless devices that send data to monitoring teams who can respond when an exposed individual becomes unconscious.
Always remember that every work site with a risk of H2S will have unique protocols, emergency procedures, muster points and PPE on-location.
Anyone who works in an environment where H2S gas might be present needs training to learn about detection and treatment. It’s not enough to know when the gas is nearby. It’s also essential to know what to do when a co-worker is exposed and unable to evacuate the danger zone.
If you or your company are interested in H2S training online, please contact us or check out our full course library here.