Oil and gas jobs have always been among the most hazardous. Exacerbating the issue are explosive growth, demanding quotas and an influx of inexperienced workers. Whether they are new to our company or new to the oil and gas industry, short-service employees are at increased risk – up to 40 percent, by some estimates – of getting injured on the job. The safety managers must address different safety areas, including:
Fall Protection: This safety category deals with the risk of falls workers face, which may lead to serious injuries or even death. Global statistics indicate that rates of falls are on the rise.
It is therefore important for safety managers to increase their efforts in this area. They must conduct internal audits of the basics, improve prevention efforts and awareness among employees, ensure that people are protected with the correct fall protection equipment and look for better training methods.
Hearing Protection: The numbers related to hearing loss on the job are on the decline because fewer workers are on the job as a result of the economic downturn.
Vision and Respiratory Protection: The rates of vision and respiratory complications have declined slightly in developed industrial cultures because safety professionals have given them more attention coupled with more use of personal protective equipment.
Other workplace safety trends include:
- Managing safety across borders
• Choosing appropriate sources of safety
• Gaining corporate-level attention
There is clearly an urgent need and opportunity for employers to protect new workers from on-the-job injuries. The following information will help companies create a short-service employee program or improve an existing program. “No one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood, because a nation built on the dignity of work must provide safe working conditions for its people.” Common workplace health and safety hazards include: communicable disease, transportation accidents, workplace violence, slipping and falling, toxic events, particularly chemical and gas exposure, getting struck by objects, electrocution or explosion, repetitive motion and ergonomic injuries, and hearing loss. Although some hazards are less likely to happen in some work spaces than others, it’s important to assess which hazards are most damaging to your business and your employees. Some may disrupt your continuity more than others, some may pose more serious threats to employee welfare, and still others will result in the most time lost or be the most costly.
Taking risks and rushing were the underlying factors in each case. More specific factors included the following: Taking shortcuts. Each of the work teams was in a hurry and involved in operational tasks that were somewhat non-routine, such as remounting a wellhead, releasing a jammed Kelly from the well-hole and changing wire-line tools while a chemical pumping vendor was working on site. In the case of the wellhead remount, a near-miss accident occurred just before the fatal injury. Safe procedures ignored or not in place. All three companies had safety and health programs in writing. The investigations showed that procedures for the particular jobs were not available or were ignored. Lack of oversight or supervision. There was no operational oversight. Supervisors in all three cases had stepped away from the area momentarily, gotten on the phone or turned the operation over to a vendor or someone with insufficient experience. No clear chain of command. Two of the three cases involved one or more vendors working on site. This led to ambiguity as to who was in charge, resulting in a lack of accountability and empowerment among the workers to stop the job and evaluate the situation. Lack of communication among operators. One case involved a new employee. The other two involved operators who were working with vendors or who were not familiar with each other. Lack of checking/testing safety devices. Two of the fatalities involved over-pressurization or inadequate connections to control pressure. Visual inspection to check for over-pressurization or improper fittings could have prevented the incidents. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In two cases, the deceased employees were not directly involved in the operation. They were standing by, watching. The problem of struck-by injuries and fatalities in the oil and gas industry has persisted for more than a decade, with little or no improvement. If the three fatality examples and causal factors are representative of what really goes on in the workplace, simple preventive measures such as management accountability, effective hiring, training and education, and better hazard recognition and control are necessary.
Common types of health hazards in the workplace are:
- Chemical (asbestos, solvents, chlorine)
- Biological (tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis, molds)
- Physical (noise, heat and cold, radiation, vibration)
- Ergonomics or Repetitive Strain Injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome, back injuries)
- Psychological (stress)
How health hazards enter your body:
- Breathing (inhalation)
- Swallowing (ingestion)
- Skin (absorption)
- Cuts (injection)
Harm caused by health hazards depends on:
- Strength, or potency, of the agent.
- Amount of the agent that is present.
- How long you are exposed to the agent.
- Part of your body that is exposed.
Types of health effects:
- Acute: the effect shows up right away.
- Chronic: problems show up after a long period of exposure and/or long after the exposure ends.
- Local: only the part of the body that was exposed is affected.
- Systemic: an agent enters the body and affects other parts of the body.
Cancer is a term for many diseases in different parts of the body.
- Carcinogens are agents that cause cancer.
- There is no totally safe level of exposure to something that causes cancer. · Cancer from a workplace exposure may develop 10, 20 or more years after exposure.
- You may become allergic or sensitive to some agents you work with. Sensitization can develop over time.
- For example, a health care worker may develop a serious allergic reaction to latex used in gloves.
- Both men and women can be affected by reproductive hazards at work. · Reproductive hazards cause miscarriages and birth defects.
Safety Hazards Common types of safety hazards in the workplace are:
- Slips, trips and falls
- Being caught in or struck by moving machinery or other objects
- Fire and explosions
- Transportation and vehicle‐related accidents
- Confined spaces
- Violence Slips, Trips and Falls
- Bad housekeeping and poor drainage can make floors and other walking surfaces wet and slippery.
- Electrical wires along the floor pose a tripping hazard.
- You can fall if you are not provided with fall protection equipment, guardrails, and safe ladders.
Caught In or Struck By Moving Machinery/Objects
Machinery can cause injuries in different ways:
- You can get parts of your body caught in or struck by exposed moving parts if machines are not properly guarded, or not locked out when being repaired. · You can be struck by flying objects from machines without protective guards.
Fire and Explosions
- Improper labeling, handling or storage of certain materials can pose a risk of fire or explosion.
- Every workplace should have an evacuation plan for getting people out of a building in case of fire and an alarm or alert system to quickly inform employees of an emergency.
- Every worker should be trained on what to do in case of an emergency.
Transportation and Vehicle‐Related Accidents
- Operators of vehicles and equipment can be injured or cause injury to pedestrians if equipment is unsafe or if adequate training has not been provided.
- You can be seriously injured or killed after being hit by a vehicle while repairing roads or doing other work in traffic zones. This danger exists when traffic is not properly routed and/or adequate barriers are not placed between the workers and the traffic.
Confined Spaces · A confined space is an area with small openings for a worker to enter and exit and is not designed for regular work. Examples of confined spaces include manholes, sewer digestors and silos. There are many hazards in confined spaces.
- Workers can become unconscious and die from a lack of oxygen.
- There may be too much oxygen, or other chemicals that can catch fire or explode.
- Poisonous gases and vapors, such as hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide, may also build up in a confined space.
- Confined spaces can also pose physical hazards. They can be very hot or cold, very loud, or slippery and wet.
- Grain, sand or gravel can bury a worker.
Violence · Violence on the job is a growing problem.
- Homicides/Murders/Active Shooters are the second leading cause of workplace fatalities. Workplace violence includes physical assault as well as near misses, verbal abuse and sexual harassment.
How to correct the risks well it is just that simple
Find the Hazards
The first thing you need to do is to find the hazards in your workplace – that is, find anything with the potential to cause harm. Some hazards will be obvious because they’ll be common to your industry, but others won’t be.
- Start by talking. It’s a legal requirement that safety is discussed in workplaces, and it’s also smart management.
- Find out more about getting the conversation started with workplace consultation.
- Working closely with your employees, take a look around your workplace using this self-assessment tool to identify safety issues. Write those you find down – on your Safety Action Plan.
- Go through any injury records you have. They might show you if problem areas exist, or if any patterns are emerging. If you don’t currently keep a written record of workplace injuries – and near misses – start now.
Now after you’ve made your list of possible hazards, you need to assess the risk – that is, make a judgment about the seriousness of each hazard, and decide which hazard requires the most urgent attention.
Fix The Problems
When you’ve prioritised the hazards on your list, you need to start immediately on the most important step of all – fixing the problems in consultation with your workers.
- Your first aim should be to totally remove the risk. For example, if the risk involves a hazardous chemical, try to find a safe alternative to the chemical. If there is a slipping or tripping hazard in your workplace, see if it can be removed. If a task is intrinsically dangerous, look for alternative ways to complete the task.
- If it’s not possible to totally remove a risk, you need to find ways to control it. You might have to alter the way certain jobs are done, change work procedures, or perhaps provide protective equipment.
- Where you are unsure of the risks in a task use the self-assessment checklist you filled out during the find the hazard stage to consider the safety issues in each step.
You’ll often find there are simple solutions to many of the hazards in your workplace. Most of them will be inexpensive, and some will cost nothing at all. Of course, sometimes there are no straightforward solutions. What do you do then?
- check our alerts and guidance notes for your industry or a particular health and safety topic and see if there’s a documented solution to the problem
- talk to other people in your industry to see how they’ve handled similar problems
- when introducing changes you may need to consider the training of your workers
- finally review any changes to ensure other safety issues have not arisen.