Industrial Supply Blog

Preventing Struck-By and Caught-In Hazards in the Oil and Gas Industry

Nov 8, 2017 8:16:46 AM

oil field workers silhouette

Struck-by and caught-in hazards cause 3 out of every 5 oil and gas industry fatalities. Most of these fatalities occur during site preparation, drilling, and the service stages of well operation. Are you doing everything you can to prevent these risks?

Struck-By Hazards

A struck-by accident occurs when any part of the body gets struck by an object in motion. The force of the impact is what causes deaths and injuries. Struck-by hazards are usually caused by one of three events:

  1. Falling / Flying Objects
  2. Swinging Objects
  3. Rolling Objects

Falling / Flying Objects

While working from heights, workers could lose their grip on a tool. When this happens, the tool can fall onto employees working below. Loose pipes, scrap, lumber, and other objects can get knocked over and fall down to lower levels. Even small objects like nuts and bolts can cause major injuries and damage.

Suspended loads also have the potential to fall. When hoisting and rigging equipment fails, the suspended loads could fall. When these loads fall, they can land on employees working below.

Flying objects come into play through improper use of hand tools. For example, worn out hammerheads can come loose from the handle. If this happens while in use, it could go flying and strike a nearby worker. 

High pressure lines and hoses can also create a flying object hazard. If the connections break free, the bolts could become projectiles.  And the pressurized lines could also strike nearby workers.

Crane in front of industrial building

Swinging Objects

Oil and gas workers risk getting struck by swinging pipe as it is being lifted to the rig floor. Derrickhands also risk getting struck by pipes and traveling blocks. The tongs and spinning chains used to make drill pipe connections can strike workers.

Another common cause of swinging object hazards is the use of cranes and excavators. Struck by injuries can occur when equipment is operating near pedestrians. Workers can be struck by the equipment itself, or by the loads that the equipment is carrying.

Rolling Objects

Fleet vehicles and mobile equipment have the potential to create rolling object hazards. The weight and force of this equipment can strike, crush, and injure employees. Don’t underestimate the power that even a slow-moving vehicle can have on a person’s body.

Preventing Struck-By Hazards

Struck-by hazards can cause serious injuries. But, you can prevent them. Avoid these hazards with the proper training, the right equipment, and safe behaviors.

Here are some ways to prevent both falling and flying objects:

  • Use specialized equipment when using tools at heights. 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
  • Use tag lines to maneuver suspended loads
  • Never stand underneath a suspended load
  • Wear hard hats and other necessary PPE
  • Maintain all hoisting, lifting, and rigging equipment
  • Perform daily inspections and replace any damaged or frayed lines

Refer to the OSHA standards for more information on how to protect workers from falling objects.


Here’s how you can prevent swinging objects from creating a hazard:

  • Train employees where to stand when tripping pipe in or out
  • Barricade the swing radius of cranes and excavators
  • Wear hard hats and other necessary PPE
  • Use tag lines to maneuver suspended loads
  • Communicate to nearby workers about suspended loads

To prevent vehicles and mobile equipment from rolling:

  • Use wheel chocks on all parked equipment
  • When parked on a grade, turn wheels in so that it cannot roll forward or backward
  • When parked on a grade, use your parking brake
  • Maintain vehicles and mobile equipment with regular preventative maintenance

Oil worker bolting.jpg

Caught-In Hazards

Caught-in and caught-between hazards can be a lot like struck-by hazards. Employees can get caught between objects that have fallen or rolled onto them. They can be squeezed, caught, pinned, or crushed by these objects.

Workers can also get caught or pulled into machinery and equipment. For instance, floor hands can get caught in spinning chains, parts of the rotating system, or in draw works.

Caught-in hazards often result in lacerations, amputations, major blood-loss, and death.


Preventing Caught-In Hazards

You can prevent these serious incidents from occurring. Train your employees about these hazards. Implement policies and procedures for working near machinery and equipment. Safeguarding equipment is another way to protect workers from caught-in hazards.


Train new employees on the hazards of the oil and gas industry. Provide refresher training for your experienced workers,too. Arm them information. Get them to recognize hazards and respond appropriately.

Policies and Procedures

You’ll also need to train them on your company’s policies and procedures. For instance, you should already have a Lockout Tagout program in place. When taking a walk through the site, make sure your employees are following the LOTO procedures.

Employees need to be aware of any other site specific policies you might have. Do you prohibit loose clothing when working around revolving spindles, drums, and drive shafts? Do employees need to maintain a minimum safe distance from machinery and equipment? Make sure your employees are aware of what the risks are and how to avoid them.

Machine Guarding

Guarding is the best way to protect your employees from rotating parts and equipment. Guards should always been in place when equipment is running. Employees should never remove the guards unless they’ve locked out the equipment.

And, employees should follow strict company guidelines when removing or adding guards. If there aren’t policies in place, that's a problem. Safety managers should create written procedures and train employees to follow them.

Refer to the OSHA standards to learn when and where to install guards

OSHA Incidents

Struck-By Fatality

In 2012, six employees were working on a double mast service rig. An employee was standing under the load block when the load line failed. The load block struck the employee and he died. Not only was the employee standing where he shouldn’t have been, but the lifting equipment was also in poor condition. Review the full report here. 

This fatality occurred at a construction sand and gravel site. But incidents like these can easily happen in the oil and gas industries as well.

Caught-In Fatality

In 2014, a truck driver was killed at a sand and gravel mine. An excavator was loading material in a haul truck parked at the pit. The victim exited the truck and was struck by the excavator bucket. He was pinned against the truck and died from his injuries. Review the full report here. 

Final Thoughts

Prevent struck-by and caught-in hazards at your facility. Create policies and procedures that will protect your employees. Train them on safe behaviors at the job site. And provide them with the necessary tools and equipment that will reduce their risk of injuries. For more ways to protect your oil workers check out our blog, "The Dangerous Life of a Roughneck: The truth about oil drilling safety hazards."

Visit OSHA’s website for more information on how to prevent these types of injuries in the oil and gas industry.


Topics: Oil drilling safety, Oil and gas

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