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Oil & Gas Industry Taps into New Future of Safety

03 February, 2023

The future of the oil and gas industry is facing rampant change, and safety is part of the discussion. Several safety collaborations are already full-speed ahead to protect industry and the people who drive the engine.

A change is coming for the oil and gas industry. The sector has seen a hefty share of ups and downs, and this year is seeing a slow but steady growth after a tumultuous 2020. That most recent disruption is inspiring the industry to drive forward on a new path for the future; one that includes safety and efficiency.

The oil industry is facing a series of changes in production and advancement in the movement toward diversifying energy, partnering in progressive environmental efforts, and improving industry efficiency, according to a panel of Canadian oil and gas specialists in a webinar series for the Global Energy Show in 2020-just before the coronavirus pandemic. This includes making bigger strides in safety.

Crude Realities

While deaths and injuries are lower than in previous years, the oil industry, like others, is focusing on ways to clean up its record. Ergonomic injuries and worker fatigue are among some of the most common issues, as workers often work long hours and travel to various sites. In 2019, the U.S. oil and gas industry experienced 25 deaths, according to a report from the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This compares with 31 fatalities in 2018.

OSHA says the top hazards and dangerous conditions that can result in fatalities for oil and gas workers include:

  • Struck-By/Caught-In/Caught-Between: activities such as site prep and drilling, loose tools, and high-pressure lines and hoses.
  • Vehicle Accidents: fleet vehicles and mobile equipment, overhead cranes, and long commutes.
  • Explosions and Fires: temperatures for materials and resins, vapors, gasses, wells, and shale shakers, among other hazards.
  • Falls: ladders, walkways, and platform work.
  • Confined Spaces: maintenance and inspections inside tanks, manholes, trenches, and pipes.
  • Chemical Exposures: fluid transfers, tank gauging, and sampling/chemical handling.

The order of these top causes of fatalities typically shifts. Several initiatives and efforts are being made to strengthen oil and gas safety, and important groups, such as IOGP and OSHA, are each taking the lead.

Pumping Up Safety

In 2017, the IOGP Safety Committee launched Project Safira, which aims to eliminate fatalities from the upstream industry. The plans focus on life-saving rules, aviation, process safety, and land transportation. It also aims to improve the industry and make a positive contribution to society through various external projects for COVID-19 safety, diving, and fabrication site safety, among others.

"The Safety Committee works to eliminate fatalities from our industry," said David Jenkins of BHP and IOGP Safety Committee chair. "It does so by gathering safety performance data, learning, leading and facilitating industry-wide activities to reduce and eventually eliminate fatal incidents in our industry."

OSHA is creating Alliance Program Ambassadors through partnerships with oil and gas entities, such as Buckeye Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network (STEPS) in Texas. The focus is on the six points above as well as heat stress. STEPS will share timely and relevant safety and health information and work collaboratively on issues.

"Workplaces are safer when everyone works together to recognize hazards and follow safety protocols," said OSHA's Larry Johnson in Columbus, Ohio. "Our ongoing alliance with (STEPS) continues to share best practices, educate employers and employees, and ensure that safety is a priority on the job."

While workers in oil and gas go through extensive training for safety, there still are challenges from work culture to newer workers to jobsite changes, just to name a few. That's why it's important for a job hazards analysis and safety meetings that cover the top causes of injuries. This information then is kept fresh on workers' minds so that they can be more aware of their duties and safety. Signs and labels are important tools that help remind workers of when to wear PPE and instructions for safe procedures, such as changing cylinders, oil and gas turnarounds, or basic HazCom.

Review the regulations and standards that apply to the oil and gas industry and how effective labeling can address hazards in our free Oil and Gas Industry Signage Requirements guide.