Oil and gas work may involve many hazardous activities. It’s a dangerous industry to work in. It’s important to recognize and control the hazards as much as possible. So, what are some of the major safety concerns for working in this industry? There’s high risk of exposure to struck-by and fire-related hazards. High visibility FR clothing can help control these risks.
High visibility clothing can reduce the number of struck-by incidents. And FR clothing can protect employees from fire-related and arc-flash hazards. Let’s take a closer look at these two types of clothing.
It’s critical for oilfield workers to be seen in this environment. There are many hazards that can injure unnoticed workers. Moving vehicles and equipment are common in the oil and gas industry. This is just one of the many examples of what are known as “struck-by” hazards.
Struck-by hazards cause 3 out of every 5 fatalities in the oil and gas industry. These kinds of accidents occur when a person gets struck by an object in motion.
OSHA categories these incidents into three general events:
- Falling and Flying Objects
- Swinging Objects
- Rolling Objects
There are many examples of falling and flying objects in this industry. Have you ever seen a suspended load snap or fail? That would be one example of a falling object. And unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon. When loads fail, they could land on employees... resulting in injury or even death.
The same goes for swinging objects. Equipment operators have the potential to strike nearby pedestrians. Cranes, excavators, and boom lifts are just some of these equipment examples.
Rolling objects can also involve mobile equipment. Vehicles parked on a grade can roll downhill. Vehicles in operation are also considered rolling object hazards. It doesn’t have to be large equipment either. Fleet trucks, forklifts, and skid steers can be just as dangerous. Sometimes more so because pedestrians tend to get a little too close. Other rolling objects include things like loose pipe and cable spools.
Employees need to avoid working near these kinds of hazards. They have to be aware of their surroundings. And they must also communicate with mobile equipment operators.
But, wearing a high visibility garment is also a good idea. It will help the equipment operators to spot their fellow workers. Hi-vis clothing will help identify workers who are standing where they aren’t supposed to. The bright colors and reflective stripes make them stand out, especially in low-light conditions.
Struck-by hazards can be serious. So how do you avoid them?
With training, awareness, and the proper PPE.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides little guidance on when to wear hi-vis clothing In 2009, they issued an interpretation letter that clarifies their federal regulation. But, it pertains to construction workers only. For other industries, OSHA defers to the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI.
ANSI updated their high visibility standard in 2016. The standard is referred to as ANSI/ISEA 107-2015. It breaks down the high vis requirements based on industry and hazard. Oil and gas workers fall into the “Type O” category.
ANSI defines “Type O” as “off-road” environments. This means any work environment that does not take place on any public roadways. Type O garments provide visual enhancement to workers in occupational environments that have struck-by hazards from moving vehicles, machinery, and equipment.
ANSI also sets the standard for minimum design requirements on all hi-vis clothing, including information on specific background materials and reflective performance. Design standards range from Performance Class 1 to Performance Class 3.
The minimum requirement for Type O is a Performance Class 1 design.
Performance Class 1 provides the least amount of color distinction while still maintaining compliance. Stepping up to Class 2 will give the wearer more protection. It has more amounts of hi-vis and reflective materials. It allows for better definition of the human form.
Many companies opt for high visibility clothing that meets the Class 2 requirements.
Oil and gas industry workers also risk exposure to fire-related hazards. That’s why flame-resistant clothing is commonly worn as basic PPE for workers in this industry. It’s a hazard that OSHA has brought into the spotlight in recent years.
In 2010, they issued an official memo to employers of the oil and gas industry.
The memo states that workers must wear FR clothing when:
- The drilling process hits formations or zones of hydrocarbons (oils and gases)
- Accessing or extracting the oil and gases
- Servicing active wells of any kind
- Stimulating, plugging, or capping inactive wells
- The well has been drilled, completed, and placed into operation
- The well fluids are brought to the surface and separated, stored, gauged, or otherwise prepared for product delivery
Because this list covers much of the work involved in this industry, employers are starting to require them 100% of the time. The workers need it more often than not. So it might as well be standard uniform.
The purpose of FR clothing is to protect against fires and arc flash hazards. FR clothing is flame-resistant, which means that it’s designed to self extinguish when ignited. If the garment catches fire, it will put itself out. This prevents further damage and injury.
FR clothing is made in one of two different ways. It can either be made from material that naturally resists flames and embers, or from treated fabrics that slow down the ignition process. Both types of FR material are accepted and widely used. Learn how to choose the best FR coveralls here.
The Combination of Hi-Vis and FR
Are you in charge of buying PPE for your workers? If so, then you’re probably familiar with what’s out there. You can get all kinds of clothing with hi vis protection. The same goes for FR. But, did you know there are clothing options that combine the two?
Hi-vis clothing with flame-resistant properties must be labeled appropriately. Always check the tags to be sure. A garment like the one pictured below could easily be confused with a non-FR vest. But according to its label, this vest is ASTM F1506 approved and is rated for 5.1 cal/cm².
And FR jackets like the one pictured below retain their fire-resistant properties while also enhancing visibility. The stripes on the arms and across the chest help employees stand out. You can also find coveralls and other FR garments like this.
Again, always check the labels of your garments. Make sure they provide the protection that you’re looking for. Never assume. And don’t think that you can just throw on a hi-vis vest overtop FR clothing. If the vest is FR rated, then it might be okay. But, regular vests can burn and melt, increasing the risk of injury.
Finding the right PPE can be difficult. There’s a lot to consider. You have to understand the hazards that your employees are exposed to. Making sure workers have the proper PPR is crucial.
So, take your time to review your options. Reach out to a trusted supplier who can guide you through the process. At RMI, we have helped dozens of other companies in your exact position. Let us do the same for you.
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