Ever see the TV show, Dirty Jobs? The oil and gas industry has been featured on it a few different times. But, working in the oilfields isn’t just one of the dirtiest jobs. It’s also one of the deadliest. Oil rig safety is a hot topic in this industry. Workers face more risks on an oil rig than in most other places in the field.
Luckily for you, we’ve got some useful tips that will help keep you and your employees safe while working on an oil rig. Take our advice. Learn the five best ways to NOT get yourself killed out there.
Oil Rig Safety Tips That Will Keep You Alive
From 2003 to 2010, 823 oil and gas industry workers were killed on the job. That’s seven times higher than the national average for any other industry. Don’t let yourself become one of those numbers.
The first step to avoid injury or death is to recognize and control oil rig hazards. You’ll notice that our advice is based on some of the most common oil rig hazards that worker face. Makes sense, right? Avoid these and you just might live to see another day.
So what are the top oil rig hazards?
According to OSHA, falls, struck-by hazards, and fires are the main killers of oil rig workers. The last two pieces that round out our list are a bit more general. But, we think you’ll appreciate them all the same.
1. Wear Your Fall Protection
Oil workers often have to climb elevated equipment like drilling and service rigs. These employees face the greatest risk of taking a fall. Derrickhands, in particular, need to be aware of the specific fall hazards that they encounter.
Derrickhands work from heights anywhere from 30 to 100 feet or more. They work from a small platform that has open holes and exposed edges. It’s a risky job, but an important one. How are you going to protect them from these dangerous fall hazards?
Obviously you need to train them. You can’t just take the newest employee, put him up there and wish him luck! Derrickhands are usually some of the more experienced workers. And ideally, they aren’t afraid of heights! Unfortunately, experience and bravery aren’t enough.
Check out our related post, Fall Protection for the Oil and Gas Industry to learn more.
Ultimately, the thing that is going to keep these workers alive is their fall protection equipment. Make sure these employees have all of their ABC’s of fall protection equipment and know how to use them. These include their Anchor, Body Harness, and Connectors. They need to wear this equipment when they’re working from the platform — and while climbing up and down from it.
Positioning lanyards are another important piece of equipment for these workers. Instead of protecting an employee by arresting the fall, positioning lanyards work to prevent a fall.
Keep in mind, it’s not just derrickhands who need to know all of this. Anyone who works from heights of 4 feet or more needs equipment with a fall protection system.
The Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports that seven percent of the oil and gas industry fatalities between 2003 and 2006 were due to falls from height.
Here are some common causes of falls in the oil and gas industry:
- Unprotected sides or edges
- Slips or trips
- Improper ladder use
- Improper use (or lack of) fall arrest systems
- Unstable working surfaces
Another component of fall protection that people don’t always think about is protection from falling objects. The CDC reports that 22% of oilfield fatalities resulted from objects falling from height and landing on workers below.
Train your workers on how to prevent tools, debris, and other objects from falling down to lower levels. Tool lanyards and debris nets are two suggestions for preventing objects from falling onto workers below. Employees should also wear hard hats to protect themselves from these hazards.
Falling objects are actually considered a “struck by” hazard. That leads us into our next piece of advice — watching out for struck by hazards.
2. Watch Out for Struck By Hazards
We recently wrote a post on how to prevent struck by hazards in the oil and gas industry. That’s because struck by hazards are one of the top killers of oilfield workers. In fact, three out of every five fatalities are from either struck by or caught-in hazards.
When working on an oil rig, employees should take extra precautions. They need to prevent their tools and other objects from falling down to lower levels.
Here are some ways to prevent falling objects from striking another worker:
- Attach tools to a worker’s belt or the platform structure
- Use toeboards, screens, or guardrail systems to prevent objects and materials from falling down to lower levels
- Barricade areas below elevated work zones
- Wear hard hats and other necessary PPE
- Maintain all hoisting, lifting, and rigging equipment
- Use tag lines to maneuver suspended loads
- Never stand underneath a suspended load
- Perform daily inspections and replace any damaged or frayed lines
Struck by hazards can also result from moving vehicles or equipment, falling equipment, and high-pressure lines. Take this into consideration when getting to and from an oil rig. Often times, heavy equipment is operating nearby and can present many dangerous risks.
3. Try Not to Catch on Fire
Our next piece of advice? Try not to catch on fire. Oil and gas industry workers face the risk of fires and explosions every day. There’s an endless amount of flammable gases and vapors everywhere you go. All it takes is for something to spark and ignite the worker, and you’ve got a deadly fire on your hands.
When working on an oil rig, workers can come across natural gases found during the drilling and production stages of operation.
It’s not a pleasant experience to have a fire break out on or near an oil rig. Workers need to act quickly if they want to prevent the fire from spreading or getting any worse. But, their number one priority should be getting themselves to safety.
Here are some ways you can prevent a fire from developing near an oil rig:
- Provide spark arrestors for internal-combustion engines
- Post "NO SMOKING" signs wherever a flammable gas or vapor hazard exists
- Locate "spark producing" equipment or facilities well away from potential hazard areas
- Prohibit vehicles with catalytic converters from entering the immediate vicinity of the rig
- Prohibit open flames in the vicinity of the rig
Oil and gas industry workers also need to wear flame-resistant clothing. This will help protect them in the event that a fire does occur. To learn more about proper use of FR clothing, check out these related posts here:
4. Don’t Fall Asleep on the Job
Moving on to tip number four. Don’t fall asleep on the job! People who don’t work in this industry might not understand. But, fatigue can be a serious problem for oil rig workers.
Employees often work long hours. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, oilfield workers often work between 7 and 14 days in a row (sometimes more). Each of those shifts is usually 8 to 12 hours long. Some even work 16 hour days.
This can lead to a lot of tired workers. That’s a problem, because fatigue slows reaction time and increases the chances of making a mistake. Fatigue leads to a higher risk of injuries and illnesses.
Fatigue can also be a result of hot weather. High temperatures can have some serious effects on your employees. Make sure they understand the hazards of heat-related illnesses, such as heat stress. Check out our recent post on this subject here: How Heat Stress Has Become One of the Most Dangerous Hazards in the Workplace.
To learn more about managing fatigue, visit OSHA’s website. They give you some helpful tools and resources that you can implement at your organization.
5. Follow the Safety Rules
Let’s be honest. We could have just given you this one piece of advice: Follow the safety rules! After all, the rules are there for a reason. And no, it isn’t just to make the government look like they’re doing something productive. It’s to keep workers safe!
We’ve come a long way in reducing the number of workplace injuries and fatalities. But, there’s plenty of room for improvement. For now, follow the rules and regulations that agencies like OSHA have put into place.
Your organization might have additional rules that go above and beyond the OSHA requirements. Make sure your employees understand the company safety policies. Be there to answer any questions they may have.
Oil Rig Safety: It Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard
There’s no doubt that working from an oil rig is dangerous. Here’s the thing, if you train your employees and provide them with the proper tools and equipment, you can keep them safe. Workers need to stay alert and prepare themselves for these hazards. That’s where you come in.
Following our advice above will help protect your employees. These five simple tips for oil rig safety can mean the difference between life and death. Choose safety. Choose life!
If you find yourself in need of additional assistance, just reach out to one of our knowledge representatives on staff! We’re here to help!