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Factors That Increase the Risk of Accidents in Oil and Gas Industry

oil and gas accidents

In the period between 2003 and 2013, the oil and gas sector in the U.S experienced massive growth that increased the number of drilling rigs aby 71%. The industry doubled its workforce to occupy the new positions that came with expanded and new rigs. With increased level of operations, the industry encountered about 1,189 fatalities despite reporting a decline in the rates. About 50% of the fatal accident victims worked for companies that serviced wells with transportation and contact with objects contributing to 40.3% and 25.9 fatalities respectively.

Shipping and contact with working equipment seem to be the most frequent hazards in the oil and gas industry. According to a five-year analysis of the injuries by category, about 37% were struck by, about 14% caught in and about 21% fell from elevation or flat places. With that in mind, most companies are on the verge of deploying resources to curb the rising cases of deaths associated with the sector. The industry risks a public perception of being the most dangerous if the level of accidents does not change.

While some accidents might be inevitable, most are preceded with near misses that often go unreported. It calls for the companies to implement a comprehensive safety strategy that incorporates management and employees. Investments in the safety equipment might be expensive but necessary to cushion the business against the financial and legal effects of a fatal incident. On the other hand, consider sourcing your PPE from the oil, gas safety supplies, and enjoy mass discounts and high-quality gear. Some of the brands available in the catalog include FR Cargo Pant, Helly Hansen FR Rain Coat, FR outerwear, FR safety vests, FR pants, FR hoodies, Bib overalls and Googles among others.

If you are looking forward to incident free working stations, you need to evaluate the main factors that raise the risk of accidents in the company. Analyzing every position gives an opportunity to develop customized safety strategies to solve particular problems. Involving the workforces provides you with a better grasp of the real working environment and improves the acceptance levels among your employees. The following factors increase the risk of incidents in a typical oil and gas company:

Incoherent warning system

Workers safety is more of a human factor than structural engineering factor. Most of the accidents happening in the oil and gas industry have in some way, a human factor of commission or omission. In line with the type of operations involved, the industry demands a comprehensive warning system that communicates to the workers of impending dangers of working or passing in some particular areas. It helps the staffs prepare with the right protective gear when they need to access potentially dangerous sites.

If the warnings are poorly installed or absent, it is almost impossible to differentiate safe working platforms from the dangerous ones. Inadequate warning systems do not only put the team at risk of accidents but make it hard to evacuate the staffs during the major incidents. Such instances are common when companies neglect essential inspections or lack qualified staff to drive the safety agenda.

Inadequate risk assessments

The increased global oil and gas products mean increased onshore and offshore rigging. As the firms explore new rigging areas, or expand the existing plants, construction projects, and plant installations are inevitable. Also, the unprecedented pressure that comes with oil transportation poses a major risk on the oil pipeline and trucks involved in the distribution process.

Adequate risk assessments come in handy towards evaluating the level of risk that every site is likely to pose to the incoming team. If it is not properly conducted, the report is likely to bypass significant risks that might reveal when the rigging activities begin. The site layout needs to provide convenient evacuation opportunities in the event of an incident.

Inadequate plant and truck maintenance

Oil drilling, refinery, and distribution depend on a complex system that involves massive machinery, trucks, and pipelines. The highly automated systems require periodic maintenance often based on the EOM guidelines. Other than enhancing performance, frequent servicing comes in handy towards increasing durability and reducing the cost or repairs and replacements. Faulty trucks and operational equipment are perfect ingredients for workplace accidents.

With transportation and contact with objects, contributing to about two-thirds of all fatalities registered in the 11-year period, predictive maintenance and real-time monitoring remains critical to curbing the menace. With more that 50% of the fatal injuries affecting workers from companies servicing the wells, oil companies need to integrate training with their suppliers and service providers.

Insufficient training procedures

While the physical safety equipment and PPE take significant portion of the company’s budget, they are not sufficient to prevent the occurrence of these incidents. Hiring competent operators lower the time required to train and adopt new safety mechanisms. A training program ought to capture specific needs of the team to enhance implementation by the employees. On the other hand, poorly trained and incompetent operators increase the level of risk of accidents, as they are not likely to adhere to the required operational procedures. Inability to assimilate readings, translate warning signs from machines might lead to explosions.

Excessive working hours

Workers in offshore rigs and oil distribution channels have to cope with long working shifts that often last for 7-14 days. While the shifts are designed to enhance continuity without exposing staff to excessive fatigue, the level of engagement is likely to cause fatigue. When they are tired, workers are likely to lose concentration on the details leaving them at risk of accidents. Most slips, fall, and falling objects cases are known to occur when the crew succumbs to fatigue. For this reason, there is a need for shifts that allow flexibility and hence staff changeovers before the precedent time.

Adverse weather conditions

As discussions towards workers safety advance in the mining sector, the oil subsector attracts huge concerns owing to the number of deaths that happen every year. Some are caused by faulty systems while some are intrinsic to the type of weather in the rigging areas. For instance, rains are a common cause of slippery working platforms that is known for slips and falls at elevations.

Muddy conditions are likely to trap employees exposing them to falling objects and moving machinery. When it comes to oil products distribution and storage, the requirements increases the possibility of truck collisions. In offshore rigs, storms and cold temperature are common occurrences known to increase the risk of injuries. As the wells deepen, the drilling team requires specialized PPE to cope with the icing cold such as Five zero FR Balaclava, FR Reflective Bomber Jacket, MSA necessary Harness, Retractable web Lanyard, Pelican 2690 Headlamp, focus control headlamp and vision headlamp for a hard hat.

Poor communication between shifts

As with other processing factories, oil refineries, and drilling rigs operate on shifts based on the level of output and number of personnel. Regardless of the length of the shift, there is a need for the shift leaders to communicate any outstanding issues that need immediate fixing before commencements. A smooth transitioning requires operators to spend five to ten minutes handing over the operations to the incoming personnel. A written report on all the issues helps the incoming team to project the possibility of similar problems and solve them before they happen.

If the shifts fail to leave a comprehensive report at handover, the incoming shift tends to deal with similar challenges at the first instance. That way, they bypass necessary procedures set by the former crew that could lessen the time taken. In addition, they fail to realize the risk factors identified in the late shift that may need an immediate remedy to prevent incidents. 

Michael Snyder
Michael Snyder