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The H2S Training and Education Center

Learn about H2S

"One of the leading causes of death associated with exposure to hazardous chemicals"

What is H2S?

This is a brief summary about H2S, Hydrogen Sulfide, and is not intended to replace our high quality H2S training. The H2S Training and Education Center recommends training if you have found yourself here.

H2S or Hydrogen Sulfide, is a flammable, colorless, and extremely toxic gas with a smell that has been described as smelling like "rotten eggs". H2S is made up of 1 sulfur atom, and two hydrogen atoms. The formation of Hydrogen Sulfide is typically from the bacterial decay of organic material in the absence of oxygen, occurring naturally in; volcanic gases, crude oil, natural gas, some well waters, and in a variety of geological formations. H2S is also a product of many industrial processes including but not limited to; refining, natural gas production, the Kraft pulping process, and many others. H2S is also referred to as sewer gas, stink damp, rotten egg gas, and sour gas.


H2S Health Effects

In addition to H2S absorbing in the lungs through breathing, Hydrogen Sulfide can also be absorbed through ingestion from contaminated food or water. Once H2S has entered the body it is rapidly distributed to various organs including the lungs, liver, muscle tissue, and the brain. H2S in the brain disrupts the ability to control breathing, and death can occur shortly after.

OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)

For General Industry the OSHA PEL is 20ppm for an 8 hour period. This ratio is known as a time weighted average (TWA). Exposure may exceed 20ppm, but no more than 50ppm for a single time period up to 10 minutes.

The IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health) Concentration has been set at 100ppm.

The Industry Standards where H2S is typically present establish the safe 8 hour TWA at 10ppm with a peek exposure at 15ppm. No Exposure to Hydrogen Sulfide is really safe though.


Everyone is different, and some people could experience these symptoms at lower levels than what is specified here. H2S can kill you from an acute exposure to high concentrations, or potentially even from chronic exposure to lower concentrations. This list is presented as a guideline

Hydrogen Sulfide Safe Work Practices

Hydrogen sulfide can be found virtually anywhere, the most common occurrences are from industrial activities. These activities include but are by no means limited to; Petroleum drilling and refining, wastewater treatment, coke ovens, tanneries, pulp and paper mills, Natural gas drilling and processing, as well as many others. Hydrogen Sulfide also occurs naturally all around the world.

Protecting yourself against H2S exposure

Understanding and utilizing safe work practices when H2S is present is an in-depth subject, and the best way to ensure you're safety is to have the proper training. This section will mention a couple of concepts and list what you should do before entering an area where H2S may be present.

H2S Safe Work Practices

  1. Always use the Buddy System
  2. Establish Engineering Controls
  3. Ensure a Contingency Plan is in place
  4. Always work upwind of H2S
  5. Be familiar with the appropriate gas detection equipment
  6. Use and understand how to use the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
  7. Most Importantly, GET QUALITY H2S TRAINING

Before Entering an area where H2S may be present

  1. Air must be tested for the presence of H2S Gas, as well as the concentration if the gas is present.
  2. Air testing should also determine if fire or an explosion risk is present, and whether or not explosion precautions are necessary.
  3. If H2S gas is present, the space or area must be continuously ventilated until the gas level is within acceptable limits, or removed completely.
  4. If the H2S gas cannot be removed, appropriate respiratory protection and any other necessary personal protective equipment must be worn by personnel entering the space or area. This includes escape communication equipment, should the individual be overcome by exposure the H2S.

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The H2S Training and Education Center Pocket Card is perfect to carry around as a source for basic H2S information, and reminders on how to stay safe where H2S may be present. You can purchase these cards online, or request customized cards. Our pocket cards are made with quality materials, and will outlast any laminated card. Get Pocket Cards

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