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Chemical Exposure
I do apologize for the extremely long post but it is important that I get help from the right individuals. I have essentially been exposed to benzene three times from having inadequate equipment and PPE, all of which were reported and all of which no report was filed or turned in on three separate occasions. I do not know if I should file a workers comp claim on my own or if I would have to take another path to ensure I have future health care if any major problems arise from the exposures. I do not know if I have impairment in any way from the exposures and do not know how I should go about getting a medical exam done. I am in college and money is slim.

I began my employment with xxxxxxxxxxxxx on 9-14-14. I was hired on the fact that I had previous inspection experience in the area. I explained that I had around 8 months experience (with most of that time being a sample catcher), had not done entire jobs by myself, but could be trained in a short amount of time due to previous experience in the area. I was sent to a few days of Industrial Safety Training, given the equipment/PPE needed to do my job (or so I thought). I was then put on call to go to jobs with other inspectors.

I remembered the basics of the job (as taught by other inspectors at Inspectorate), and caught on fairly quickly by watching other inspectors do their paperwork and being with them when checking into terminals. I was provided no training other than this and our monthly safety meetings.
The first job that I had an issue with has to do with the gloves provided to me being inadequate protection from Benzene. On 12-3-14 I was sent to gauge a benzene Barge. When gauging the barge, there was pressure coming through the gauger because it had a leak somewhere. The vapor was benzene vapor and contacted the gloves I was given (being it was vapor, and the fact that I did not know where it was leaking from, it is possible the product got in between my glove and arm). When I returned the sampler I told the safety manager that it leaked and believed some had gotten on my arm/wrist because the area was burning and itching and I had what appeared to be a rash there. The only remarks made were that the gauger would be fixed, he was in the process of sending it off for some work, and that I should use the other for the time being. No incident/accident report was filled out or filed. The burning and itching would come and go over the next day or so at a significantly decreased intensity (mostly itching, but as if it were on the inside of my skin).

On the finish of the job I used the other gauger, which leaked also. The same thing happened but I knew where it was leaking from (the wiper seal) and could hold the seal (with the glove over my hand to “protect” me) to prevent vapor from getting around me, so I did. I got the job done and noticed my fingers were itching and burning on my right hand as I left the terminal and did not know why. When I got home I rinsed the burning/itching area which included my thumb/the web of my thumb, and some of my palm. I have since contacted the glove manufacture and have been informed that the gloves are not recommended for use with benzene. They were nitrile gloves and the breakthrough time listed on other manufactures sites is less than 6 minutes for benzene depending on thickness(the manufacture did not tell me the times for their gloves, they just informed me that they were not compatible with the product).
The next morning (12-4-14) prior to the safety meeting I told the safety manager about the wiper seal leaking and my hand burning/itching from the job and he again assured me that it would be fixed, as he was ordering parts for the equipment that day. He said I could have grabbed the sampler or gauger when it had some on it or something. Another inspector, Craig noted that they had special “silver” disposable gloves at his previous employer that they were supposed to use for Benzene jobs after Aden (another inspector) told me and Craig that he had felt the benzene go through his gloves before while sampling it. The conversation was ended at that time because I had to go to Sunoco for a job. No incident/accident report was made or filed. The burning and itching was inconsistent and lasted for a few days at a significantly decreased intensity as if it were on the inside of my skin.

On 12-8-18 I questioned the safety manager about the gloves and any other PPE that we need to wear after having the conversation with Craig about the silver gloves and was told that the green nitrile gloves are what we are supposed to use on aromatic hydrocarbons (which is what I had been wearing, along with smaller nitrile gloves underneath), and that I should always wear a full face respirator (with OVAG) cartridges for any aromatic hydrocarbon. He told me the burning happens to him sometimes when he has to open up the equipment. He also noted that he has seen people use it to clean their hands in the old days and has seen some of those people with cancer now because they just didn’t know better back then. He went on to tell me that once he had a chemical splash into his ear when opening up a valve years ago and him reporting it to his supervisor and them doing nothing about it. I received another set of cartridges for my respirator, a few sets of green gloves, and some water paste.

I was sent to a Benzene job at a terminal on 12-19-14 with improper equipment that resulted in a chemical exposure as well. The Benzene sampler was already on a job with Craig and the only other sampler we had was the methanol sampler which is a shotgun style sampler that must be used with a funnel. For this reason I was instructed to wait until the rain stopped to sample and gauge. I arrived at the terminal and told the operator that I could not do anything until it stopped raining. He called my office to discuss this and I was called about 5 minutes later with instruction to sample and gauge the barge in the rain. As I was sampling the product, some of it spilled out of the standpipe and the funnel onto the barge and my boots (because I was squirting the product into the funnel at a rapid rate from not having the proper sampler, there was no other way to get the product into the bottle). What benzene was spilled mixed in with the standing water on the barge and as I walked from place to place on the barge my pants leg and boot absorbed some of the product (some of this water was over one inch in depth). Shortly after I finished the job (as I am driving to the office to turn in the samples) my feet and heels began to itch and burn. I rinsed my feet off and switched socks before going to the next job. The feeling lasted until I could get my boots (that had absorbed the benzene in the standing water on the barge) and pants off the next day and I complained through the night to Craig about the burning and itching. I called the coordinator that assigned me the sampler in the morning (as soon as I arrived at Sonic to get me something to eat after being at Exxon for 10 hours) and told him about the burning and itching in my feet I had been experiencing all night. I was told that I would be fine, the main method of absorption is through inhalation and to let him know if it ever makes me light headed or dizzy or anything, and that it is not necessary to report the product just getting onto your skin. No incident or accident report was filled out or turned in. The burning/itching lasted a few days at a significantly decreased intensity and would come and go (total time I felt the effects of the product after the first 24 hours I would estimate at 3 hours, but the intensity was greater than the first two times I contacted the product).

I researched the properties of the chemical and found that it does not dissolve well in water (meaning any water I walked through even with the soles of my boot could have resulted in the exposure), and that any amount of exposure that is noticeable should be tested for to determine the severity of the exposure. The following week (this accident happened on a Friday so I could not personally do anything within reason until the next week) I was attempting to get a blood test done to detect if or how much of the product was present in my blood and realized that I could not just pay for blood work and get the results, it had to be ordered by a doctor. I contacted my previous employer, Prioux Chiropractic, about the issue. I picked up a blood work sheet that day and go the work done (the following Tuesday I believe, 12-13-14). The results came back normal/negative. The blood work would have been more accurate if it would have not been done 3 days after the exposure, which was my employers responsibility.

On 1-9-15 around 1030 I arrived at the office to give in my doctors note and recommendation of being off until the following Monday. While I was there I was brought aside to fill out paperwork pertaining to my job. I was instructed to initial everywhere that the safety manager had done so. The initials were for training information I was told I already knew by working at Inspectorate, and that they knew that so I could just initial by his initials. The documents were backdated to the date that was three months after my hire-in date (12-14-14), which I would assume was the time period I had to complete the modules I knew nothing about. I think that it is obvious, based on the amount of previous questions I have had pertaining to safety when dealing with the chemicals, and issues with doing my job in general, that I clearly did not know the things mentioned in the training modules. In total I have 11 months doing related work and have to ask for assistance multiple times while on the job during a four day work period. I reluctantly initialed the blocks as instructed because it was what my boss needed done. I took pictures of the paperwork and have proof that it was that date I was instructed to initial them. I asked the safety manager about the MSDS binder I looked through trying to find a MSDS on the chemicals (specifically cyclohexane, the last job I did) I had been blindly dealing with and was told “yeah I need to update that, I know. I will go do that right now.” The binder is missing MSDS for many of the chemicals we have to sample and gauge, including the product that I have gotten on me three times, and we are to sign off that we have reviewed them on every JSA.

I decided to resign from this job on January 13th, 2015 based on the facts I have presented (mainly terrible management), not wanting to deal with chemicals anymore, and that I have assistance to go back to college at this time. I arrived at the office to inform them of this and presented my supervisor with the question of why no incident report was filed following the report of my injuries on three separate occasions (two of which I believe he was not aware of up until this point, because I did not inform him, I informed the safety manager). He replied that he did not know how severe the burn was when I reported it, he did not remember exactly what happened, and that I should consult the safety manager about the issue instead of him. The safety manager called me in the afternoon to discuss the ordeal and said that I should have been more “assertive” about the accidents when I informed them of the accidents (three separate times).

The following day I arrived at the office to turn in my equipment. I walked into a trap that was my bosses boss essentially interrogating me over the accidents. I talked with him for around 30 minutes on all three accidents, my lack of training, previous experience (from 3 years ago), and the lack of MSDS sheets that we are supposed to be using every day. He insisted that the gloves were adequate protection and that I was basically lying about the product getting through them, that I informed the wrong person of my injury (on one occasion), and that he knew the MSDS sheets were updated (although he could not even find either MSDS binder when he went to look for them while I was at the facility). He asked why I didn’t inform my boss of the issues at hand (which was what I had already done by informing the coordinator that sent me to the job, as well as the safety manager…if they though it was a big deal they would have reported it to him). He then went on to agree with the fact that they shadow the harmful effects of benzene so that inspectors are not afraid to do jobs. He also insisted that only the ISTC training over benzene was sufficient training to put me sampling and gauging benzene (which it absolutely does not). I was not afraid to do my job, but having inadequate PPE at the time of the incidents, leaking equipment, along with the severely poor management taking care of their employees made me absolutely terrified to be a petroleum inspector. I have this entire interrogation on video.

If you can point me to someone that can help me determine what actions should be taken I would be greatful. I am in Texas.

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