Offshore Rig Safety – Joint Post

Pat Brownlee writes for  Texas America Safety Company, (Blog4Safety), and David Beastall writes on behalf of Acre Resources,  who recruit for health and safety jobs.

Offshore drilling provides 24 percent of U.S. oil and 25 per cent of U.S. gas supply, but not without inherent occupational risks.

Personnel who work on offshore rigs normally work two weeks on and two weeks off. Their mode of transportation to and from platforms is usually by helicopter, unless situated close enough they can travel by vessel. As a result every employee must be trained on how to be deployed to and from helicopters.

The Gulf of Mexico has a constant flow of helicopter traffic, and the weather over the Gulf varies from fog to strong winds, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. In the United States, personnel safety for offshore drilling requires proper training in compliance with OSHA and American Petroleum Institute Standards.

The Health and Safety Executive in the UK recorded a fall in unintended oil and gas leaks in 2011 with the trend still present leading into the first quarter of 2012. However the HSE findings were that there are still further steps that need to be taken in order to reduce the risk of unnatural environmental disasters and occupational health and safety risks for drilling crews and energy professionals out in the field.

The number of leaks from hydrocarbons is seen as an important KPI and indication of how successful the offshore industries around the world are at managing major risks. Accidents and loss of life show a strong correlation to unintended sea oil and gas leaks.

So how is the offshore energy industry tackling health and safety responsibilities?

Rig specialists in safety are usually required to have a bachelor’s or associate degree in occupational health or public safety. These safety officers or advisors are responsible for emergency planning and implementation, conducting safety audits, and seeing that any safety-related problems are corrected. Offshore rig workers have a different kind of safety culture, as they not only must contend with the hazards of a land-based drilling rig, but the responsibilities that accompany working in a marine environment, and the costs of mistakes that might be made. They must be prepared on what to do in case of a fire or blow-out or other incident.

Demand for health and safety professionals who can provide foresight, analysis and manage the risks heavily involved and associated with high risk occupations and jobs are shown to be increasing demand. This is in part because natural carbon resource and energy suppliers are keen to avoid the potential fallout rather than investing in post disaster management. Such incidents that result in the loss of billions of dollars to put things back on the right track are often later revealed to have been avoidable in the first place were health and safety not ignored or corners cut in an attempt to squeeze down costs.

The last line of defense when something goes wrong on any job, is personal protective equipment, (PPE). Employers are responsible for training workers on how to use their safety gear and enforce the use of these pieces of equipment, which include hardhats, goggles or safety glasses, safety shoes, flotation devices, fire-retardant coveralls, and more.  The PPE any man or woman wears can be the difference between sustaining a minor injury to receiving a permanent disability. The protection it provides is limited, but the use of PPE is crucial.

Ensuring workers are comprehensively trained in how to use the personal protective equipment and potentially lifesaving resources available to them however can make a huge difference when the unexpected happens.

Nearly a year on from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the attitudes and corporate culture surrounding the offshore energy industry are now seen to be changing, partly in response to some of the worst man-made environmental disasters experienced within the industry. The Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico involved BP and one of their leased deep sea drilling rigs located within close proximity to the United States. When this exploded, 11 men were killed and many others sustained serious injury in the process alongside the consequences and environmental damage still being felt to this day.