Workers in the oil and gas industry continue to be one of the groups at the highest risk of injuries and fatalities on the job compared to all other U.S. industries. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) revealed that out of 120 workplace deaths in the mining, oil, and gas extraction industry, 74 of them occurred within the support activities for oil and gas operations.
In order to ensure a safe work environment on your next energy project, apply these safety best practices:
1. Collaborate effectively with the local emergency response community
Develop a relationship with local emergency response organizations and establish a consistent flow of communication to provide a higher level of overall safety. Emergency responders, rig hands and exploration company safety and health professionals must work together to utilize their resources to be ready to handle emergencies swiftly and successfully.
2. Invest in a safety program that unites workers
Encourage an environment of open communication and respect. Embrace a personal approach to safety training and dedicate time to allow workers to get to know each other. Building more substantial personal connections with fellow workers will inherently build trust and camaraderie.
3. Actively monitor workers’ mental health
A large factor that negatively affects safety in the industry is worker culture. Eliminate the “tough guy” exterior and stereotype. Build a sense of community and trust with workers to make it easier for them to ask for help, obey rules, admit mistakes and seek advice.
4. Ensure familiarity with worksites
Before work begins, ensure everyone understands their role, hazards that exist, and all safety precautions. Require procedures and hazards to be fully communicated to new workers, during shift handovers, and for work site changes.
5. Maintain consistent housekeeping
Reduce the chances of fatal accidents by keeping floors, pathways and all work areas clear of unnecessary items to prevent trips and falls, as well as struck-by hazards. Implement clear signage that directs workers to emergency and safety equipment.
6. Implement a 5S system
Improve the workflow and reduce waste with a 5S system. Apply strategic labeling techniques to direct, warn and communicate information to workers. Color-code materials in the workplace to make them easier and quicker to find, including specific tools and equipment.
7. Install in-vehicle monitoring systems (IVMS)
Accidents from driving or riding in a motor vehicle account for the highest number of total fatalities in the oil and gas industry. Monitor driver behavior to analyze issues and poor habits to determine how to improve your vehicle safety programs and worker training.
8. Provide clear visual communication
Strive to eliminate miscommunication and confusion with legible, reliable signs and labels to convey dangers and safety instructions. Create custom signs to communicate procedures to specific work crews and work sites. Replace worn out, illegible and outdated signage with new signs. Check for floor markings that are in need of re-application.
9. Reassess safety signage when projects shift
When worksites, projects, and crews change, take the time to assess that signs and labels are in the correct areas and communicate hazards and procedures before the next project begins; this will ensure dangers and details about specific locations will be known when new workers come in.
10. Stay on top of machine maintenance
When working on offshore rigs, the machines are a lifeline when you’re hundreds of miles from shore. Prevent premature machine failure and keep your workers safe by conducting regular maintenance checks. Use OSHA maintenance activities in the Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing eTool.
Also, ensure safety messages can endure grease, grime, and extreme temperatures. Print OSHA, ANSI, and NFPA compliant labels for a variety of applications, including chemical labeling, pipe marking, arc flash, and GHS/HazCom 2012. To support safety programs, use highly visible floor marking and wayfinding to safely guide workers.