Evolution of Safety in Oil and Gas Industry

Oil and gas safety is a point of paramount significance today. With the safety net coming under attack, organizations want to tighten up their safety standards. Unfortunately, due to heavy equipment, electric lines, and even flammable gases, potential hazards come in many forms. 

Sample this case of safety breach. At one Oil and Gas company, a lone worker is caught between materials amplified by the cave-in occurring during the trenching. Then the top fatality cause, vehicle accidents, has caused great concern, occurring due to long shifts, overworked and exhausted drivers driving to gas sites, pumping stations, and pipelines. This has set the tone for oil and gas companies to be benchmarked for safety, giving way to a culture of pride in achieving zero fatalities. 

So how to perform the transformation?

The 11 Pillars of oil and gas safety transformation empower companies to support their safety objectives and goals, adopt innovative programs, and promote proactive safety standards to keep workers and communities safe. 

  • Worker & Worksite Safety Resources

What happens when a driller’s clothing gets caught in a rig’s driveshaft or when workers get caught in a fire accident caused by an explosive gas leak?

The importance of safety in the oil and gas industry resonates through the safety best practices to assure a safe work environment. For example, oil and gas safety standards are strengthened by installing IVMS or in-vehicle monitoring systems that help monitor driver behavior, enhance worker training and vehicle safety programs and eliminate fatalities. Organizations must also implement other safety management measures, including regular maintenance checks using OSHA maintenance activities and consistent housekeeping to avoid workplace hazards.

Oil and gas safety is further augmented by adopting the OSHA alliance program to address safety hazards in the oil and gas industry, such as worker exposure to silica, fatalities arising from vapor ignition, and hot work on tankers, oilfield tankers, and other equipment as well as tank gauging hazard alert. In addition, reassessing safety signage for communicating procedures and hazards to workers, identifying task-specific and process-specific risks using OSHA’s Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing eTool, and putting controls in place are quintessential measures adopted to ensure safety.

  • API Rules to Live By

John’s hazardous walk across slippery areas is a shining example of the safety hazards in the oil and gas industry. In one Oil and Gas worksite, leaks and cold vents provided the fire source for the fire accident. Unfortunately, there are more hazards than workers at the Oil and Gas worksite.  

Embracing the API Rules to Live By gives a company a charter to implement robust oil and gas safety standards and guidelines to mitigate specific hazards. For instance, the Tag out/Log out procedure is a preventive measure to keep the process liquids, thermal, chemical, and hydraulic sources locked and tagged to eliminate unexpected energy releases.

API Rules to Live By strengthens safety by determining and eliminating potential hazards, enhancing driving safety, implementing safety measures during lifting and hoisting, and offering guidelines to ensure safe trenching and excavation. API Rules to Live By provides preventive measures and reinforces safety measures. 

  • API occupational safety and health standards

When Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill or the TransCanada rupture is put in perspective, the dire need for standards to thwart pipeline disasters or other occupational hazards rises in relevance. With API Occupational Safety and Health Standards, safety gets a facelift with API Recommended Practice 54 for embracing standards to set up safe and healthy working conditions at the drilling and servicing operations.

Regarding operational safety, oil and gas safety standards about API Recommended Practice 74 empower organizations to promote safe oil & gas production operations. From drilling and service operations to public and personnel safety, API occupational safety and health standards equip organizations with API Recommended practices to enforce safety management and healthy working conditions.

  • OSHA Safe + Sound Week

OSHA Safe + Sound Week spreads occupational safety & health. If your organization is keen on upholding oil and gas safety, OSHA Safe + Sound Week helps adopt the proactive approach to identify hazards early on and eliminate injuries. Apart from its awareness, the program engages workers, highlights safety practices, and empowers organizations with workplace safety.

  • Onshore safety and Offshore safety

National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) has reviewed fatality data. It has concluded that about 70% of events were connected to critical safety hazards like bypassing safety controls, Line of Fire, Hot work, driving, energy isolation, and confined space. Therefore, onshore safety stresses the need for the ‘Live Saving Actions’ that help mitigate worker exposure through proper training, knowledge transfer, and awareness of critical safeguards.

The fatal Piper Alpha oil platform explosion is a reminder to enhance offshore safety measures. An Oil and Gas company enhances offshore safety by adhering to API’s prevention-oriented steps and standards of excellence to implement smarter regulations and robust approaches to improve offshore safety.

  • Transportation Safety, Pipeline safety, Rail safety

A tanker truck is carrying oil crashes after striking a utility pole. Then it leads to fatal accidents and massive oil spills, causing further damage. Therefore, transportation accidents pose significant challenges for oil and gas safety. Considering the safety hazards in the oil and gas industry, it is imperative to determine the right transportation mode among trucks, rail, pipeline, and sea to ensure safety.

Organizations strengthen their safety management and address safety issues by embracing preventive mechanisms, like training drivers and maintaining transport equipment to promoting firefighting equipment. 

The gas transmission pipeline of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline exploding proved to be fatal in 1965. In 2020, US pipeline incidents totaled up to 578, leading to explosions, fire release, or loss of life, as per Statista. Measures like Pipeline Safety Excellence are adopted to ensure safe pipeline operations and safety to enhance safety standards. The importance of safety in the oil and gas industry reflects how rail safety has been strengthened by supplementing firefighter training, first responder training, and a slew of safety procedures recommended by API.

  • Oil Spill & Emergency Preparedness and Response

Oil spills cause severe environmental damage and lead to fatal accidents and loss of life. Organizations take a cue from API’s Oil Spill & Emergency Preparedness and Response program to adopt a proactive approach in strengthening first responder training and ensuring responders have enough information to handle oil and gas emergencies. For instance, you can benefit from issue-based training covering fire incident data or liquefied natural gas incidents to roll out effective responses in demanding situations.

  • Refinery & Plant Safety, Occupational Safety, Process Safety

There is pressure dropping in refinery instrument air resulting in flaring of LOP flare pilots, and in another incident, a boiler unit providing steam trips as there was a loss of fuel gas. Many more such refinery hazards, not to mention the hazardous materials getting released into the environs, petroleum engineering health risks, and other hygiene hazards, increase the chances. To augment safety, organizations must embrace refining operational and safety standards developed by API to achieve process and occupational safety performance enhancements. Occupational hazards rear their ugly heads in every industry. As per the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, nearly 489 oil and gas workers lost their lives between 2013 and 2017. Inspired by OSHA’s resources to strengthen occupational safety, oil and gas companies can identify and control hazards at worksites. For instance, OSHA’s general guidelines advocate Eye and Face Protection to thwart threats from flying objects. In addressing process hazards, organizations must adhere to OSHA’s Process Safety Management to ensure process safety and eliminate safety hazards in the oil and gas industry.

For a start, documenting buildings, control rooms, and other areas visited by employees can help restrict access to individuals to specific regions and augment safety standards in the process.

  • Fire protection standards

At a Bakersfield Refinery, the cooling tower caught fire in 2018, and there have been many other safety hazards in the oil and gas industry. In terms of strengthening safety management, organizations adopt API guidelines to bolster fire protection. For example, take Drilling & Well Servicing Operations that involve Hydrogen Sulphide. The API recommendations to implement oil and gas safety standards help embrace prevention programs to ensure personnel safety. In addition, organizations can adapt the eight fire protection standards cutting across operations to address safety hazards in the oil and gas industry.

  • Consumer Safety, Protecting Public health.

Consumer safety is an inherent part of safety management wherein consumers can adopt preventive measures to address safety hazards in the oil and gas industry. For instance, consumer refueling safety guidelines issued by API advocate avoidance of light matches and smoke while refueling or releasing metal ladders while performing outdoor work near power lines, which help augment consumer safety.

  • Product Stewardship, Measuring Safety Improvements

Oil and gas safety also hinge on the industry’s resolve to support product stewardship to deliver safe products that champion safety. Implementing safety measures is just the beginning, but monitoring safety improvements become quintessential to supplementing oil and gas safety management. For instance, vehicle monitors can gauge excessive acceleration resulting from distracting attention or tiredness.