Monday, 17 March 2014

Mitigating workplace risks in the oil and gas industry

The oil and gas industry employs a sizeable portion of the Australian workforce, and keeping oil and gas workers safe is paramount to ensuring the good reputation, smooth operation and financial viability of a company.

Health and safety risks exist in every workplace, but they can be mitigated or avoided altogether with the right training, procedures and tools. Conversely, when one of these elements isn’t in place, accidents may occur. Some of the common risks in the oil and gas industry include motor vehicle accidents, equipment accidents, fire hazards and exposure to harmful substances.

Motor vehicle accidents

It is important to have in place a good motor vehicle program for workplace health and safety purposes, particular if your company uses large vehicles such as trucks.

Ensure that your company implements and follows a number of safety rules in relation to motor vehicle accidents:
  • Avoid long, consecutive periods of driving – driving long distances and hours can lead to fatigue and slow a worker’s reaction. Setting a limit on the number of consecutive hours a worker is allowed to drive helps reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Mandate safety training for all workers – it can be hard to monitor whether safety measures are being implemented on the ground, so it is your responsibility to ensure that all drivers are trained in your company’s safety protocols, and aware of the common hazards on the roads.
  • Develop and enforce a hazardous condition protocol – motor vehicle hazards are often weather-related. Develop regular, weather-specific protocols for drivers, and make allowances for deadlines if inclement weather has effected your workers’ ability to deliver work on time. Trying to work against the weather or make up for lost time can often cause serious accidents and losses for your company.

Equipment accidents

The oil and gas industry uses a lot of complex, heavy machinery. Operating such equipment carries a degree of risk for employees. Accidents may occur if a machine malfunctions, or isn’t handled properly. That’s why it is vitally important for your business to implement a number of safeguards in relation to large-scale machinery and equipment operated by human workers:

  • No shortcuts – an in effort to save time and increase efficiencies, it can be tempting for the business or the worker to take a number of shortcuts when it comes to equipment. However, all it takes is one accident for all the time and money savings to be all for nothing. It is therefore more important to direct effort to developing the right protocols, improving efficiencies in other areas or improving the equipment itself.
  • Planning head in procedures – this is particularly important for skilled workers who have worked a long time in their role. Sometimes, it is human nature to go on “auto-pilot” mode for procedures that have been performed numerous times. However, if workers do not plan ahead in the procedures, they may lose focus and increase the risk of injury to themselves or to others.
  • Track your maintenance – one of the most basic way of preventing equipment accidents is to stick strictly to your maintenance schedule, repair and update your equipment when required. InspHire’s rental software has useful functions to help you monitor and track maintenance and repairs throughout the life cycle of your machinery and alert you when maintenance is required.

Fire hazards

In an industry that deals often with combustible and highly inflammable materials, there is also a heightened risk of fire or explosions. These accidents are difficult to prevent or predict. As a business, you should take the utmost precaution when it comes to fire prevention.
  • Implement a detailed fire-fighting plan – every worker in your company and on your sites should know your fire plan and receive regular training on it. Fire-fighting equipment and suppression agents should be readily available and visible, and response teams should be on-call in case of an emergency.
  • A fire-safe set up – your machinery and equipment should be set up in a way that helps extinguish fire and not fuel it.
  • Regular fire inspections – as oil and gas sites are susceptible to serious explosions and fires, your site should be inspected regularly, whether on your own volition or by external agents to ensure compliance with fire safety standards.
  • Mandatory bottom line – you should insist on the use of certain essential gear to help prevent and mitigate fire hazards, such as wearable protections for workers.   
  • Control rooms in safe zones – ensure that the main control centres of your company are located away from risk areas such as chemical containers and wellbores.

Exposure to dangerous substances

To prevent injuries caused by exposure to harmful chemicals, you must limit to the lowest extent possible any contact between workers and such chemicals. A few tips to mitigate the risk of injury from exposure to dangerous substances include:
  • Distance and shields – you should provide as many shields and as much distance as possible between your employees and dangerous chemicals.
  • Ensure good ventilation – ventilation is vitally important for work sites that may contain airborne contaminants such as fumes, gases and vapors. It is also recommended to provide state-of-the-art protection equipment if you are working with materials that emit harmful airborne contaminants.
  • Clothing and equipment – providing safety clothing and equipment, such as specialised masks, eyewear, gloves and suits, can limit exposure.
  • Regular inspections and audits – workplace health and safety inspections should be done regularly to ensure that any risks arising out of the operation of your business is detected and mitigated to the lowest extent as soon as possible. For example, an air quality self-inspections in the workplace can ensure that workplace conditions meet and exceed the regulatory guidelines.
When it comes to reducing workplace health and safety hazards, your best line of defence is staff training. However, having the right software to organize and monitor training, and track equipment and site maintenance can also assist to prevent accidents from occurring.

Contact us today and learn how inspHire software can be the solution to the risks for your company.

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