Oil rig workers are some of the toughest employees out there. They’re constantly exposed to severe weather and harsh working conditions. How do you keep them safe from everything that’s going on around them? One thing you can do is provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE for oil rig workers includes flame-resistant (FR) clothing, fall protection, and much more.
Oil rig workers should be prepared to use their personal protective equipment on a daily basis. Remember, PPE is an employee’s last line of defense so it’s important to eliminate risk when possible. When worn properly, PPE can help minimize the extent of accidents and injuries.
Sound confusing? Let’s review the basics of oil rig safety:
Flame-Resistant Clothing for Oil Rig Workers
Flame-Resistant (FR) clothing is required for oil and gas industry workers. In 2010, OSHA recognized that workers in this industry faced a higher-than-average risk of needing FR clothing protection.
FR Clothing is designed to self-extinguish. That means it won’t continue to burn even if an employee is exposed to flames or embers. The flame-resistant properties of the clothing prevents the fire from spreading to other areas of the body. FR clothing drastically reduces the number of workplace deaths and injuries every year.
The OSHA requirement states that oilfield 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
Related Post: FR Clothing Requirements for the Oil and Gas Industry
So how do you choose the right FR clothing? There are a number of factors you need to consider:
- Whether you need FR or AR clothing — and how to know the difference
- Optimal protection features
- Maximum comfort for the employees
- Durability of clothing materials
Related Post: How to Choose the Best FR Coveralls
You also want to make sure you choose clothing options that are lightweight and comfortable.
Your employees will appreciate you taking this into consideration. They want to be comfortable and safe. They’ll be much more likely to comply with the clothing requirements if you get their input on what they’d rather wear.
Don’t forget that breathability is also important for reducing the risk of heat stress.
Especially during hot summer days, oil rig workers can develop heat-related illnesses. Putting them in heavy, bulky FR clothing can increase the risk of that happening. Make sure you know how to prevent and control heat stress hazards.
Fall Protection for Oil Rig Workers
One of the greatest hazards oil rig workers face is working from heights.
Oil rig workers often have to climb elevated equipment, such as drilling and service rigs. OSHA, in fact, mandates the use of fall protection whenever an employee is working from heights of 4 feet or more.
Derrick hands, for example, spend most of their day working at heights anywhere between 20 and 100 feet in the air. They guide stands of drill pipe into the equipment’s fingers and they do this from an elevated position on the derrick. It’s not an easy job. And, it’s not the safest, either.
Fall protection can help keep them safe. Here’s a review on what equipment you need to provide oil rig workers.
Do you know what your fall protection system should include? Each of the components listed below must be used when working from an oil rig. They’re used to climb rig ladders, transition onto work platforms, and when working as a derrickhand on the monkey boards.
Let’s discuss the ABC’s of fall protection.
A suitable anchor point must be used for all fall arrest systems. The anchor must be able to support a 5,000 lb load capacity. On an oil rig, anchor points should be installed in various locations. There needs to be one at the top of the ladder to assist with climbing and descent. There also needs to be anchor points on all work platforms of an oil rig.
The anchor point you choose will need to be compatible with the structure that it’s attached to. This one can be bolted or welded to steel structures. Make sure anchor points are attached by a competent person. Follow the instructions on the user's manual for more details.
A body harness must be provided to employees who wear fall protection equipment. Again, the harness needs to be worn the entire time. Workers need to put them on before leaving the ground, and wear it until they are safely back down again.
This is a great option for oil rig workers. It’s also one of the most comfortable harnesses on the market.
The connection device is what secures the body harness to the anchor point. Shock-absorbing lanyards and self-retracting lifelines (SRL’s) are common connecting devices. For proper fall protection, the harness needs to be connected to an anchor point at all times.
Positioning lanyards are also considered to be a connector. However, they serve a slightly different purpose. Instead of arresting a worker after a fall, a positioning lanyard prevents employees from ever experiencing a fall. Derrick hands wear both fall arrest (traditional systems) and fall restraint devices (positioning lanyards).
Fall protection equipment on an oil rig needs to be able to withstand the work conditions. For instance, they should hold up well against things like dirt, oil, and extreme temperatures.
Don’t think that a fall can’t happen to you or your workers. In 2012, one oil rig worker died after falling 90 feet from the derrick to the rig floor. He wasn’t wearing fall protection at the time of his death. If he was wearing the proper equipment, that tragedy could have turned out much differently.
Make sure your employees don’t take their equipment for granted. They need to understand why it’s important to wear the right PPE — especially their fall protection equipment.
Related Post: Fall Protection for the Oil and Gas Industry
Other PPE for Oil Rig Workers
In addition to FR clothing and fall protection, oil rig workers need access to other kinds of PPE, too. Below are some common examples of personal protective equipment used by oil and gas industry workers. We’ll also explain why they are useful in protecting oil rig workers from the specific hazards they face.
The use of hearing protection is often hit or miss on a rig. Use of ear plugs or ear muffs can depend on where the oil rig workers are and what they’re doing. Don’t forget that drill sites can be loud. Simple maintenance tasks that may seem safe enough can have a damaging effect on a worker’s hearing over time. Keep an adequate supply of hearing protection on hand at all times.
We only have two eyes. Damaging them is much easier than we tend to believe. Oil rig workers can be affected by dirt, sand, grease, oil, and other flying debris. Protect your workers by ensuring they are wearing safety glasses.
Oil rig workers usually like a shaded option, like the ones shown below.
Lots of heavy tools, equipment, and accessories get hauled around on the drill site increasing the risk for a crushing injury to the feet. Safety shoes, such as steel toed boots, must be worn at all times.
This is pretty standard in most industrial workplaces. Hard hats protect workers from falling objects, struck-by hazards, and other unplanned events. You shouldn’t have to work too hard convincing your employees that they need to protect their heads when working on a drill site. Offer them solutions that are comfortable, lightweight and don’t interfere with their work.
The hard hat pictured here is well-known for being lightweight. Rig workers appreciate comfort. This solution is the perfect option for optimal protection and comfort.
Depending on the task at hand, oil rig workers might also need protective gloves. For the most part, this means general work gloves. But sometimes, they need specialty gloves for welding, cutting, handling chemicals, or other odd jobs.
Protecting Workers from Safety Hazards
We all know how tough oilfield workers are. They brave the conditions and put up with the elements day in and day out. Don’t let that “toughness” mentality get in the way of their safety. Nobody is immune to safety hazards. We all need to be aware and take precautions in order to protect ourselves.
Make sure your workers don’t get complacent. Sometimes employees disregard their PPE because they think they don’t need it. Or, they simple just forget. Personal protective equipment is something that should be automatic. Remind them to wear their PPE often, and why it’s so important.
Each of us has someone in our lives who is counting on us to come home safely. Let’s do our part, and make sure that happens. For more information, contact us today and we can help you with all of your PPE needs.