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How to Create a Safer Oil and Gas Work Site

No matter the size or focus of an oil and natural gas company, creating safe work environments is essential to maintaining productivity and improving your bottom line. Due to busy sites and managers trying to keep an eye on everything, it’s easy for safety to fall to the wayside. However, it doesn’t take long for this mistake to cost organizations time and money. Instead of viewing safety as a secondary concern, oil and gas companies can make it a top priority and benefit in both the short and long run.

Know the Risks and Facts

Oil and gas workers face numerous health and safety risks everyday on the job. Slips and falls are major issues and these incidents often lead to broken bones, concussions and other injuries that require days off work. Projects may end up delayed or employers incur the cost of hiring temporary workers to replace the injured employee.

Hazardous materials, industrial tools, machinery and vehicles that require maintenance and careful handling are also common at oil and gas worksites. Lack of personal protective gear and training regarding these substances and equipment increase the chance of a dangerous or even deadly incident.

Fatalities in private mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction fell in 2013 to 154 incidents from 181 the year before, according to the most recent comprehensive data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For oil and gas companies specifically, fatalities were 20 percent lower in 2013 compared to 2012.

Despite the declining rate of worker deaths, oil and gas industries still face a high rate of injuries and illnesses. There were 27,380 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that required employees to take time off of work in the mining and natural resources industries in 2013.

Create a Culture of Safety

Safety procedures and training are a central aspect of mitigating dangers, maintaining project deadlines and saving money. Prior to even stepping foot on a specific job site, managers and employees should be fully aware of safety regulations, protocols and have PPE.

To demonstrate their commitment to safety, oil and gas companies can require new workers to undergo specific training courses before starting work. These courses could include how to handle hazardous materials likely found on site, how to use safely relevant tools and equipment and which PPE is required or recommended. Companies may want to consider requiring long-time employees to take refresher courses at specific intervals and when safety regulations change to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Inspect and Monitor All Work Locations

It isn’t enough to prepare workers for safety risks; oil and gas professionals must proactively inspect each work location to maintain the safest site possible. Before a new project begins or a shift on an ongoing site starts, supervisors should inspect the area and note any potential hazards that need to be taken care of before work can continue.

For oil and gas professionals, this may mean checking:

  • Walkways, entrances and exits
  • Tools, machinery and other equipment
  • Materials storage
  • Guardrails and fall protection equipment
  • Well pressure
  • Blowout prevention equipment
  • Oil and gas accumulation
  • Fire suppression equipment
  • Signage
  • Locks/Tags
  • First aid supplies
  • Flotation devices

Only through consistently monitoring potential hazards in an area can managers and workers decrease the risk of injuries and illnesses. While different projects may require more nuanced inspections, companies may want to invest in designing a standardized workflow that any employee can follow to create an efficient inspection process and lower the risk of injuries and deaths. Additionally, more detailed inspections regarding equipment and work sites should be performed at least once per month. These ensure risks that often remain hidden are discovered and the consistent monitoring is doing what it should – preventing potentially dangerous hazards from forming.