For most people, a bad day on the job means getting yelled at by the boss or missing deadlines. For others, it means catastrophic injuries — or worse.
There are few occupations as dangerous as the oil and gas industry. In 2017, there were 44 oil and gas extraction workplace deaths in Texas, according to data from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Huge machinery, hazardous and flammable chemicals, and isolated locations are all risks that onshore and offshore oil rig workers face.
Due to these risks, working on an oil rig is dangerous, even under the best circumstances. That said, there are safety standards and oil rig regulations that employers, supervisors, employees, and other crew members must follow to reduce accidents on oil rigs.
Common Oil Rig Safety Hazards
Oil and gas extraction often presents many hazards to oil rig workers. In general, oil rig accidents and injuries occur because of improper maintenance or handling of equipment. Examples of common oil rig safety hazards include the following:
- Caught-in/struck-by/caught-between objects
- Explosions and fires
- Confined spaces
- Machine hazards
- Electrical and other hazardous energies
- High-pressure lines and equipment
- Flight accidents and vehicle collisions
Types of Oil Rig Safety Standards and Regulations
How can oil rigs be improved to ensure the safety of onshore and offshore oil rig workers, who face risky situations every day?
With so much that could go wrong at an oil rig, it is important that everyone in the oil and gas extraction industry — from employers to the oil rig crew — understands the safety rules and regulations that must be implemented and adhered to.
Oil rig workers have the right to safe working conditions where appropriate safety measures are in place despite the hazardous nature of the job. Onshore oil rig workers are protected by the General Duty Clause, which subjects employers to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, which require employers to provide oil and gas industry workers with a safe workplace.
OSHA standards that apply to oil rig workers cover various areas, including:
- Personal protective equipment
- Occupational health and environmental controls
- Hazardous materials
- Materials handling
- Machinery and machine guarding
- Hazard communication
- Electrical safety
- Exit routes and emergency planning
- Welding, cutting, and brazing safety
For example, per OSHA’s personal protective equipment standards, an employer must provide oil rig workers with appropriate PPE, including safety glasses, hard hats, and hearing protection.
In addition to OSHA safety standards, offshore oil rig workers are also protected by other laws, such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and other regulations set out by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Safety Policies That Can Promote Safety at an Oil Rig
Whether it’s the result of oilfield fires, hazardous chemicals, falls, explosions, or contact with machinery, oil rig accidents and injuries continue to occur. Hazards are always there. So, how can oil rigs be improved to promote safety? Safety must be a priority! Whether an oil rig or oilfield is dangerous will depend on the safety policies in place.
Here are a few safety measures an employer should consider to promote safety at an oil rig:
Conduct Risk Assessments
Knowing the hazards is the first step toward promoting safety at an oil rig. Companies in the oil and gas industry should implement different job safety analysis processes to help them spot risks and find solutions.
Instill a Safety-First Mindset
Another crucial aspect of promoting safety on an oil rig is nurturing a safety-first culture. It is in everyone’s interests when managers, supervisors, workers, and subcontractors alike embrace a culture of maintaining a safe work environment.
Train Oil Rig Workers Consistently
Training should not be a one-time event — instead, it should be an ongoing proposition. Train crew members on machinery and equipment use as well as on emergency plans, emergency equipment use, and other safety procedures. Consistent training not only demonstrates an employer’s commitment to safety but also helps promote a safety-first culture.
Implement Safe Practices
Employers should establish ways to protect oil rig workers by implementing safe practices for chemical handling and exposure, equipment hazards, confined spaces, electrical work, fall and fire protection, and power sources. Maintaining awareness of all emergency safety equipment, such as rafts, life jackets, and firefighting equipment, is also crucial.
A good rule of thumb is: if an oil rig worker is not wearing the required personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, steel-toed boots, and safety glasses, they should not be allowed on site. Quality personal protective equipment is essential to avoiding injury.
Conduct Regular Housekeeping and Keep Equipment Well-Maintained
Carry out frequent and thorough housekeeping. Keep pathways, floors, staircases, and other work areas clear of unnecessary items, and clean up drilling fluids to combat falls and struck-by hazards.
Conduct regular inspections of machinery and equipment at an oil rig to prevent premature malfunctions, which could present potential hazards. Always fix or replace broken or inoperable components or equipment quickly.
Oil rig companies should ensure all equipment and machinery at an oil rig comply with industry standards, such as the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and American Petroleum Institute (API) standards.
Implement a Positive Reporting Process
Promoting safety at an oil rig is easier when workers feel they have the freedom to report safety concerns and believe management will take action. Make the reporting process as seamless as possible and include the right for workers to stop working when a potential safety hazard is detected.
Get Help After an Oil Rig Injury in Texas
Have you been injured in an oil rig accident? Or maybe you’ve lost a loved one in an offshore oil rig accident? You may have a valid claim for compensation if a subcontractor’s or employer’s failure to establish safety standards caused the accident. The oil rig accident lawyers at Johnson Garcia have over 35 years of combined experience fighting for injured victims, including oil rig workers.
When employers and insurance companies fail to provide the compensation you need and deserve, count on Johnson Garcia to fight for a fair settlement, even if that means going to trial. Schedule a complimentary consultation today. We want to hear from you.