OSHA and NIOSH issued a new hazard alert for oil and gas workers who manually gauge or sample fluids on production and flowback tanks.

The hazard alert, which was issued after a number of preventable deaths tied to manual tank gauging, offers employers recommendations on how to protect workers opening tank hatches to manually gauge or to sample hydrocarbon levels.

The recommendations outlined in the Health and Safety Risks for Workers Involved in Manual Tank Gauging and Sampling at Oil and Gas Extraction Sites cover three main categories: engineering controls, work practices and personal protective equipment.

"It's critically important that we all work together to make sure that oil and gas extraction workers are aware of life-threatening exposure to hydrocarbon gases and vapors and low oxygen atmospheres, and that they are protected,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

The alert incorporates research from OSHA and NIOSH on the high concentration of hydrocarbon gases and vapors workers can be exposed to while manually gauging or sampling production tanks and the risks associated with those levels, such as the risk of fires and of oxygen-deficient environments.

The two organizations together identified nine fatalities to workers manually gauging or sampling production tanks from 2010 to 2014.

"The expansion of the oil and gas extraction industry has led to new opportunities, but also new risks for workers," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "This joint alert highlights the importance of remaining vigilant about the safety and health of our nation's workers as our nation changes and adapts to these new opportunities."