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Oil Rig Manager Talks Mastering Safety Challenges

03 February, 2023

It's a safety manager's job to help keep workers informed and well trained. Anyone who works on an oil rig, from roustabouts to drillers, needs to be constantly up to speed on best practices and safety. It is up to oil rig managers to help ensure smooth operations through leadership.

Drilling projects not only take big money, they also take enormous manpower. The job of an oil rig manager is to ensure operations are handled efficiently and, through dependable leadership, help keep the crew safe. He or she must adhere to safety practices, coordinate with three to four crews, manage day-to-day drilling activities, as well as follow environmental and other government laws and policies.

Ryan Gnyp started in 2005 at Trinidad Drilling. He steadily worked his way up the oil rig management ladder, starting as a floorhand to become derrickhand (the person who climbs the rig's derrick and works above the rig floor on a monkeyboard). From there, Gnyp went on to become a driller, and a short time later, rig manager. He says that his success grew as the crews with which he worked with helped teach him the skills he needed. It's that founded integrity of communication that has served him well in rig safety management.

"I enjoy working as a team to get the job done," says Gnyp. "I oversee a large part of the operations for safety. Most of my job is day-to-day safety of the crew to make sure they have what they need to follow policies and make sure proper procedures are put in place."

Oil Rig Hazards

Experience, industry knowledge, and training are gained through years of hard work on the rig. As a manager for three years, Gnyp says job hazards are normal and present themselves in a variety of situations. Workers must vigilantly navigate their job and safety plans through rotating and moving equipment, fatigue from long hours or shift work, electrical cautions, and more.

"It's all relative, and there are some slight variations to the more normal hazards the crew will see. The hazards are always there. Whether it's dangerous or not is based on the safety policies in place," Gnyp said. "It's one thing to talk safe and want workers to work safe. There's a necessity in creating a type of enthusiasm."

Accidents and injuries can result from the improper handling or maintenance of energized or mechanical equipment. Reliable lighting is important in low-light or confined areas. It's a constant job also to keep work surfaces dry and slip-proof. Waterproof boots will only go so far if the surfaces are not properly cleaned. All industrial sites need tool box kits, but on an oil rig you can never have enough repair, safety, and first aid boxes. Electrical parts, material-handling aids, plumbing, hand tools, power tools and welding gear are all in constant use.

Points of Safety Operation

On an oil rig, it's necessary to be able to react safely to hazards on the job-especially unexpected ones, such as weather or a malfunction when a timed machine suddenly turns on. The common safety failures Gnyp says he has encountered have been because of:

  • Complacency
  • Repetitive motion
  • Not being aware of surroundings
  • Not staying calm while carrying on
  • Using new equipment

Being mindful is essential. Grabbing without a glove or forgetting to wear safety glasses are sometimes the most common occurrences due to a complacent mindset. The repetitive motions of the job can sometimes cause workers to oversimplify a task. When a hazard or situation arises, even something simple such as noticing a loose bolt, Gnyp says, it is important to not rush in the process. A "minor fix" without gloves can result in cut fingers, or pulling a wrench instead of pushing can cause strain.

Gnyp also says being aware of surroundings is important as well. A bump into certain machines or equipment can cause hazards. Even being a vehicle spotter, to help ensure safety, needs extra communication to let others know where you are and what you are doing, and exercising caution when guiding another vehicle. Slips, trips, and falls on the metal stairways in certain weather conditions or just being in a hurry are other safety precautions Gnyp says crews should be mindful of.

"Know that the operation has changed and you need to reassess your situation," he said. "Don't just jump in and move to act on it because you know what to do. Know when to pause and then correct. Reassess before you move any further. It is easy to become bewildered in those situations. Be safe and then carry on."

One of the common errors a worker can make is allowing emotion to take hold. "Someone thinks ?it's my fault and get rid of it' rather than moving in a more valuated manner," Gnyp said. His best advice for oil rig crews is to pair up-newer employees with longtime workers-and to share knowledge and experience with each other openly.

"I am open with all the knowledge that I have and pass it on to my employees," he said. "And I know they are going to pass on that information to someone else. It helps them maintain that mindset or that focus."

With technological and engineering changes, Gnyp said crews should stay mindful of new safety procedures that require dynamic thinking. With the heavy presence of overhead equipment, a person moving up and down on the derrick must consistently know their positioning, especially on windier days. "Watch out for automatic start equipment," he said as equipment can turn itself on and off. Gnyp said there is usually not a person overseeing every single building for added safety, but engineering is in place to have those machines guarded. Knowing when those machines start and stop is a big help in safety.

"With the newer style of drilling, there can be lots of electrical hazards," he said. "A common cleaning procedure is wash with a wash gun. It's important to know your water use, and where to spray and not to wash."

Risk assessments, hazard identification, and demonstrating safe practices are part of an oil rig manager's daily duties. Gnyp says it's an endless job with daily and weekly objectives, and safety has to be the top priority.

Slick Safety Solutions for Oil Rigs

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for rig safety. Develop an emergency response plan based on the rigs' workflow, which will differ depending on the group, the rig, and even the weather. Ensure proper training and regular checkups and maintenance on machinery.

Get a glimpse into the most common hazards Gnyp and other's in the oil and gas industry are faced with day-to-day and solutions to mitigate, through an oil and gas industry infographic. It covers OSHA's top cited oil and gas industry incidents and more. Learn how effective labels and signs can help address those hazards with a free downloadable guide to Safety Labeling for Oil and Gas Industry.