Understanding the Most Common Hazards in the Oil & Gas Industry
Blog | August 31st, 2021

Understanding the Most Common Hazards in the Oil & Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry plays a significant role in fulfilling energy requirements globally. Crude oil extraction for fuels and petrochemicals from offshore complexes or inland sites is a key activity. Companies operating in the oil and gas extraction industry use and develop oil and gas fields as a part of upstream activities such as exploration and production (including exploration for crude petroleum and natural gas), drilling, servicing, equipping wells, operating separators, and performing other activities in preparing oil and gas — up till the point of shipment from the production facility.

These industrial processes pose significant risks and have resulted in a higher percentage of fatalities in this sector. According to a report by the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP), in 2019, the industry witnessed 25 deaths in 22 separate incidents. Consequently, it is critical to invest in sophisticated equipment and ensure that all the risks are determined, assessed, and workers trained. Also, a significant portion of efforts and time should be devoted to developing specialized work crews.

The first-step to building safety procedures is to identify the hazards involved and understand the associated risks with clarity. Once this is done, it is easier to drive safety management efforts.

We at ComplianceQuest recently published a Whitepaper on the urgent need to strengthen the safety culture in the Oil & Gas industry.

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Injuries in Drilling Operations

Despite best efforts by the organization, the occurrence of injuries or accidents is almost inevitable. The potential for accidents on a drilling rig is inherent in all tasks. However, the probability or likelihood of an accident may be greater for some tasks. Below, we will learn more about the injuries arising during drilling operations – especially hazards associated with slips, tongs, and elevators.

Hazards associated with Slips

Slips are the wedges positioned between the drill pipe and the master rotary table to suspend the drill string in the well bore when the hoist does not support it.

  • Most of the accidents arising from slip operation result in strained backs or dislocated shoulders.
  • As the working surface may be wet and slippery, muscle strains and accidents such as falls and dropping the slips onto the feet is plausible.
  • Lack of communication between the employees and the driller performing the slip operation or lack of coordination between employees involved in the task also contribute to increased accidents during slip handling.

Hazards associated with Tongs 

Tongs are the large, counterweight-suspended wrenches that are used to “break out” the torqued couplings on the drill pipe.

  • Common accidents attributable to tongs can occur when an employee has their hand or finger in the wrong place as they attempt to swing and latch the tong onto the drill pipe, resulting in crushing injuries and finger amputations.
  • Accidents are likely to occur when the driller actuates the wrong tong lever and an unsecured tong swings across the rig floor at an uncontrolled velocity. This can happen if the worker pulls the wrong lever because of the levers not being readily distinguishable or sometimes because the driller is distracted or tired.

Hazards associated with Elevators 

Affixed to the bails on the swivel below the traveling block, elevators are a set of clamps used on each side of a drill pipe and hold the pipe as it is pulled from the wellbore.

  • Accidents or injuries can occur during the latching and unlatching tasks. Fingers and hands run the risk of being caught and crushed in the elevator latch mechanisms.
  • Improper attachment of the pipe to the elevator can lead to injuries. For instance, if the mechanism fails in an overhead pipe, the pipe may fall on employees working on the drill floor.

Proactive Approach to Mitigating such Accidents using an EHS Solution and Permit to Work

Potential hazards in the oil and gas sector require that we focus on enhancing safety processes. The flammable and toxic nature of the products requires caution at all stages, including during storage and handling. As a result, these processes need rigorous administration and safety control procedures. Keeping the safety of the employees at the forefront, Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulation 29 CFR 1910 enforces employers to take measures to protect employees from hazards while entering specific parts of the work floor or while carrying out specific tasks. As part of the regulation compliance, a ‘permit’ must be issued that authorizes certain staff members to perform high-risk tasks while adhering to detailed procedures.

Why a Permit to Work System is Critical

A Permit to Work (PTW) system is a formally documented system implemented in high-risk industries, including oil and gas. The primary purpose of a permit-to-work system is to minimize the risks associated with certain types of tasks (often in specific locations). By issuing a permit to work in a specific hazardous zone, the employer acknowledges the risks related to the task and undertakes responsibility to ensure that all necessary precautions have been taken to eliminate the risk. This record, in turn, helps remain compliant with regulations and keep track of all such tasks performed.

A robust permit-to-work system helps identify and mitigate any associated risks and gives health and safety leaders the peace of mind required to execute the tasks.

ComplianceQuest Permit to Work System

ComplianceQuest’s Permit to Work system establishes necessary executive work control. Our risk-based PTW solution offers transparency, analyzes risk trends, helps remain OSHA-compliant, and conforms to the requirements of the highest hazard levels. Integrated with our EHS system, going a step beyond to ensure risk mitigation remains a priority. ComplianceQuest PTW system is a completely connected system that focuses on the employees’ effectiveness, safety, and security.

With ComplianceQuest Permit to Work solution, safety leaders in the oil & gas industry can issue permits to conduct certain types of work after carefully evaluating the risks.

Click here to request for a demo of our Permit to Work solution.

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