Safety of the employees is the top priority for any company. Especially in Oil and Gas industry where exploration activities carried out in Deep and harsh environment with more sophisticated technology to meet the market demand increases the risk of employee health and safety. This report deals with potential hazards for employees involved in various operations carried out by contracting companies in the Oil and Gas industry.
Contractor is one who provides man power and materials to complete a specified job, normally brought by the client to work in their premises. Before engage in work with client, a civil contract was drafted between contractor and client. The responsibilities of client and contractors are clarified in the civil contract to meet the Health and Safety requirements of employees involved. The first step to ensure health and safety lies in properly managing their responsibilities.
The contracting companies usually develop Health and Safety plans before commissioning their work. Each contracting company has got their own safety policies. In addition to that, the contractor must train their employees as per client's safety policies to ensure maximum safety. Any known hazardous condition prevails in the work place must be warned to the contractors. Contractors are more exposed to dangerous activities, results in more fatal accidents than operating companies.
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Safety awareness for workers is must to prevent injuries during various operations. Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is widely used in Oil and gas companies to reduce accidents. The hazardous job is reduced into sequence of steps and threat involved in the job is identified. Based on the results, actions are implemented to minimize threats such as occupational illness and environmental damage. JSA is normally written in the presence of taskforce involved, which results in increased safety awareness and teamwork.
Potential Hazards for drilling contracting companies
During Rig up (Derrick and components installation) the risk of slipping, tripping and falling is more. Hence adequate measures have to minimize and prevent the consequences
Drilling fluid preparation may cause explosion if not properly mixed. Inhalation hazards and physical injury caused through contact with skin
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is released due to the Hydrogen embrittlement of metals. As it is denser than air it can accumulate in enclosed and low lying areas such as gas vent system, Mud system, Tanks and Pits. Hydrogen sulfide is extremely toxic even in low concentration of 30 ppm (Parts per million) and has flammable characteristics makes the working environment more hazardous. The Drill stem test after drilling may also cause H2S to release.
Blow outs from reservoir may occur due to kick formation, during both drilling process and drill stem test carried after drilling process could result in injuries and deaths. Proper well planning along with safety measures such as Blow out preventer (BOP) and inspection procedures will help to prevent the occurrence.
The dangers of fire, failure of offshore structures, hazardous gas leak and explosions is reasonably higher in Oil and Gas industry which increases the risk of workers involved. Early detection of leaks and providing enough separation distance between ignition sources and flammable materials help to reduce the risk. All the facilities installed in Oil and Gas industry are classified on the basis of working hazards involved in the environment. For ensuring maximum safety from potentially hazardous work, based on the level of risk 'Permit to work system' has been widely used in Oil and Gas industry.
The operator set policies and resources to ensure health and safety. But the contractors also have legal duties to provide training for their employees to match the standards required by client. The contractors are responsible for monitoring the health of their employees. The personal protection equipment and work equipment issued by contractors has to meet the industrial standards to ensure health and safety of workers.
Fire protection is extremely important for Oil and gas industry as it handles large amount of flammable materials. Safety construction begins with reducing the complexity in design and it should have to be simple and logical.
Most of the exploration activities are carried out in extremely diverse and remote locations.
Implementing Environmental manage system (EMS) will mitigate the effects of hazardous working environment, but employees working for longer working hours in the site are still vulnerable to the exposure.
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Contracting employees often travel to remote locations where many waterborne and infectious diseases are common. During seismic surveys and drilling operation the employees sustain the risk of getting affected by infectious disease due to food, environment and insects.
The drilling operation involves exposure of chemical and physical agents such as radioactive sources, drilling mud and petroleum products. During production the employees are exposed to naturally occurring radioactive sources, treatment chemicals, solvents and metals. Due to handling of these petroleum products and oil field chemicals, employees are affected by various diseases. Noise and vibrations also can cause adverse health effects such as hearing impairment and hypertension.
Exposure to Benzene causes leukemia. The industrial research organization (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygiene - ACGIH) has reduced the exposure limits for Benzene to 0.5 ppm (parts per million) from previous acceptance level of 10 ppm. It also has confirmed Benzene as human carcinogen.
Exposure to various Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons causes lung, bladder, skin and Gastro intestinal cancer. Refining and processing employees are more vulnerable to the exposure of elemental Mercury produced from Natural Gas.
During exploration and production of oil and gas from some reservoir produce high concentrations of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) in by-product streams. Effective control measures will be required in these reservoirs to mitigate the health risk of employees involved and to protect the environment.
The employee has to understand the real hazards involved in the job for successful implementation of any policies and procedures. As human attitude tends to believe "That will not happen to me", the health and safety procedures have to be clearly educated through training, induction programmes and meetings.
Involving workers in Health and safety issues achieved through safety meetings at regular intervals, tool box meetings (conducted by immediate supervisor daily before beginning work) and through safety poster programs.
All offshore sites have a Health and safety committee which comprises of members from operators, contractors and staff responsible for health and safety. The health and safety committee analyses the work place hazards and create solution to avoid or mitigate them. They include the training requirements to work in the hazardous environment and also conduct internal inspection and audits to ensure the safety of equipments and work procedures as per industrial standards.
Employees also have to cooperate along with the management by not misusing the provisions given for their health and safety.