What is Benzene?
According to the dictionary, Benzene is a colorless volatile liquid hydrocarbon present in coal tar and petroleum, used in chemical synthesis. Its use as a solvent has been reduced because of its carcinogenic properties. Benzene is an important organic chemical compound with the chemical formula C₆H₆. Its molecule is composed of 6 carbon atoms joined in a ring, with 1 hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom.
Potential short term (acute) health effects of benzene exposure include irritation of eyes, nose and skin, breathlessness, headache, dizziness, or nausea, and respiratory irritation. These effects are usually reversible by removing the exposed person to a safe breathing area.
Long-term (chronic) health effects of benzene exposure may result in blood disorders such as leukemia and anemia as a result of repeated low level exposures.
All personnel shall comply with the Benzene Program whenever possible. The OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for Benzene is 1 ppm averaged over an eight-hour work shift. The maximum Short-Term Exposure Limit (STEL) is 5 ppm averaged over a 15-minute period.
Certain job tasks may present the potential for exposure to gas or liquids containing Benzene.
Personnel shall use the recommended controls such as ventilation or PPE to prevent or reduce exposure to materials that contain Benzene, i.e., crude oil, condensate and Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs), where the potential for exposure to Benzene exists.
Minimizing the risk of exposure by inhalation of hydrocarbon vapors and skin contact can be accomplished through:
- Allowing any initial hydrocarbon vapors released to properly vent when opening vessels (i.e., floatation cells/water treatment skids and process filter changes).
- The flushing and purging of any equipment and vessels prior to being opened.
- The use of proper engineering controls and PPE.
Exposure monitoring shall be conducted for work operations involving gas or liquids containing 0.1% (1000 ppm) or more Benzene by volume.
Personnel exposure to Benzene is evaluated by collecting air samples in the individual’s breathing zone during their normal workday. Air samples may be collected after clean-up of spills, ruptures, leaks, etc. to confirm that exposure levels have returned to the level that existed prior to the incident.
Share This Article
Subscribe to our RSS Feed. What is RSS?