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Occupational safety and health training is an essential aspect in workplace hazard management programs. As training objectives, learning safe work practices, recognition of job hazards and appreciating other precautionary measures can significantly contribute to the goal of minimizing occupational risk of injury as well as disease. This paper reviews the importance of safety and health training to prevent work place incidents in the petroleum sector.
The Petroleum industry faces abundant challenges including global climate changes, sustainable development and of course, environmental and workplace health and safety. Whereas the sector's implementation of health and safety management systems has yielded considerable advancements in industry-wide safety performance measures over the last few years, persistent vigilance is necessary, particularly in the area of employee safety and health. Many petroleum companies provide wide-ranging safety and health training for their staff to make sure they know and observe the latest safety and health procedures and are able to operate and maintain equipment safely in the workplace. A number of firms develop internal safety training programs or contract safety experts to execute these programs.
Petroleum firms work diligently to put in place emergency response plans, in addition to preparing workers with training exercises in case of emergencies. Most of these firms hold safety meetings with their team regularly to ensure potential risks are addressed and fortification of safety practices are followed. Work-related safety covers the daily hazards, most of which are within the control of a competent, well-supervised working group. Every employee has to behave responsibly and be conscious of immediate hazards. Failure of workplace safety results in the bulk of lost-time injuries, which are caused by slips or falls, poor materials handling and misuse of tools/equipment. All employees in the petroleum sector as well as in other sectors must be trained in appropriate work procedures and educated to work safely. It is the responsibility of management to provide sufficient safety training and education to employees. Safety training may include on-the-job training, formal classes, reading assignments, written tests, one-on-one discussions and online training. Employees have to be convinced that it is their responsibility to work safely, and that they benefit their organization as well as themselves in doing so. The goal of preventing accidents and illnesses can only be realized through well-developed and synchronized training efforts, which incorporate training for employees, safety officials, supervisors as well as management personnel.
Training programs should be designed in such a way to instruct employees in their work performance in a healthful and safe manner. The training should be in line with the responsibility level of each individual. It is important to train staff in safety because untrained staff can: injure themselves and others, cause needless expenses, come up with their own methods of performing tasks. Well trained employees are not only a benefit to themselves, but also to their coworkers, their employers and their clients. Educating employees on the safety regulations of the work environment also gives them a sense of safety and security as they perform daily tasks, which leads to increased productivity. Additionally, safety training is important since it provides a way for organizations to document proof that such training has taken place, protecting them from possible lawsuits involving injuries.
In the United States, over 11.3 million workers are seriously injured, and approximately 11,000 employees are killed on the job annually. An estimated $155 billion is paid by U.S. employers in direct costs (e.g. insurance premiums and workers' compensation) related to workplace injuries, adding up to over $1,400 for each work-related injury (Williams & Geller, 2000). Employees face several instances through the course of a typical workday where they put themselves at risk for injury. In the year 2000, about 2,810,000 falls, 724,000 burns and 425,000 violence cases were reported in Iran, a major producer of crude oil (Rafieifar, 2005). The number of deaths as a result of workplace injuries is estimated to be 25,365. According to a study by Nasab and Ghofranipour, (Nasab & Ghofranipour, 2008) the damage caused by workplace accidents rose from 4.5 million dollars in 1991 to 42.5 million dollars in 2001. Research on workplace accidents in Iran indicates that chemical, metallic and electrical industries had the highest accident rates and over 90% of the casualties were male employees with low level of education. The three documented main causes of accidents are unsafe conditions, unsafe behavior of workers and lack of safety training (Rafieifar, 2005).
Over the past century, petroleum has emerged as one of the most sought after energy source in the world. Even though alternative sources of fuel continue to be developed, petroleum is still in high demand in both developed and developing countries. Today's petroleum industry must operate in a universal community that seems to be getting smaller by the day. On the other hand, petroleum-related tasks and technology in this competitive climate have become more complex (Markussen, 2006). Operations within this industry have become more complicated and challenging. In order to reap the benefits from petroleum production, some risk have to be taken. Apart from monetary risks required for actual production, refining and marketing of products, some of the risks are on a more personal level i.e. safety and health risks to employees and contractors, the communities around the workplace as well as the environment in which we live. Employees and contractors in the petroleum industry face a risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and physical agents for long hours and at great concentrations. In order to lessen and avoid the risk to employee from such harmful exposure, management programs/systems that include effectual standard operating procedures, appropriate communication of such procedures and proper safety and health training must be developed and implemented.
According to a study by Health Watch conducted in Australia, it was found that petroleum industry workers have better health than the general community. However, the study revealed that the risk of leukaemia in petroleum workers was greater than in the general population. Leukaemia has been an ailment of special concern in the industry due to its association with benzene exposure (Health Watch, 2007). The industry has taken major steps to minimize exposure to petroleum products particularly benzene. The known connection between benzene and leukaemia has seen governments around the world set workplace exposure standards for benzene and oil companies have taken measures to ensure that they adhere to them. Health Watch results further showed that a higher rate of melanomas was diagnosed in workers in the petroleum sector. Workers in the petroleum industry were reported to be more likely to have the disease detected sooner than in the general population. An increased melanoma prevalence rate can result from this increased rate of reporting (Health Watch, 2007). Noise and vibration from drill floors, generators, shakers and other equipment can also pose significant health risks to workers. Where noise cannot be avoided, the typical approach has been to set up noise control zones necessitating the use of hearing protection. Further, the use of hand-held vibrating tools is common on offshore installations (e.g. needle guns, grinders, impact wrenches, chipping hammers and air drills). This creates the likelihood for hand-arm vibration disorder in workers who use such tools regularly. Diverse forms of radiation as well as thermal extremes are also fairly common on offshore sites. Exposure to direct sunlight and intense heat in tropical areas and to intense cold in high latitude areas can become major sources of health risk depending on the geographical region.
Al Khafji Joint Operations, an oil and gas company in Saudi Arabia conducts company-wide management safety reviews periodically as part of its commitment toÂ safe operations and loss prevention programs (Al-Khafji Joint operations, 2005). The management also regularly launches company-wide safety campaigns to promote the significance of safety among its employees and their dependents. Further, the company has safety and fire training programs for its employees and this has contributed immensely to ensuring prevention of work-related injuries and death. The training has enabled employees to be aware of safety procedures hence they know how prevent incidents in the workplace by appropriately operating machinery, and also know how to respond swiftly in the event of an emergency. Additionally, employee training courses guarantee company readiness and response to oil spills. Al Khafji Joint Operations also has a program for staff that empowers them to share their opinions and views on safety and health issues in the company. Â
At ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded international oil and gas company in the world, the management invests in the safety, health and training of its workforce (ExxonMobil, 2009). The company focuses on improving the safety performance of its contractors. Safety training, pre-job planning tools, mentoring as well as short-service employee programs contributed to the company's improved performance in 2009. In order to achieve its vision, ExxonMobil employees and contractors obtain thorough training before commencing work. They take part in safety teams, carry out safety observations, and recommend ongoing improvements to procedures. In 2009, for example, over 1900 managers and contractor supervisors participated in ExxonMobil's safety leadership workshops (ExxonMobil, 2009). Most training programs have been designed to equip workers with the knowledge and skills they require to maximize their alertness. Contractor supervisors are given supplemental training to enable them identify and deal with signs of employee fatigue. Such initiatives have been designed to enhance ExxonMobil's strong safety performance.
Since successful businesses depend on a healthy workforce, ExxonMobil provides health support programs and services to enable its staff live healthier lives. The company has in place a workplace HIV/AIDS program which combines risk mitigation training with access to treatment and community-based care to educate HIV-positive employees on how to live safely with the illness and to keep healthy employees disease-free. In 2009, ExxonMobil partners in Angola provided several HIV/AIDS awareness opportunities to workers and contractors, including HIV/AIDS Walk for Life, safety moments, brochures and a collection of food, clothing and toys for an HIV/AIDS orphanage. The HIV/AIDS program committee in Equatorial Guinea arranged an employee awareness session as well as a community training conference.
Risks associated with safety and health are inherent in the petroleum industry. It is for this reason that it is essential for employees in this sector to be trained on health and safety. Safety training programs for employees provide guidelines for safe practices while they well work on a petroleum site. The general rules institute what procedures to follow after an incident, as safe handling regulations for various petroleum products. Training should also cover appropriate safety gear for workers, safety communications, hazard recognition and control and work procedures. Preventing accidents and sickness caused by work should be a major priority for everyone at work. Through training, employees can learn more about how to deal with hazardous chemicals on extraction sites. Petroleum firms can keep their employees safe with increased awareness and improve the safety of workplaces for everyone involved.
Providing safety and health training has the following benefits to petroleum firms:
Ensures workers are not injured or made sick by the work they do
Increases awareness of how to manage health and safety better
Develops a positive safety and health culture, where healthy and safe working becomes second nature to all involved parties
Meets employers' legal duty to protect the safety and health of employees.
Contributes towards making employees competent in safety and health
Helps businesses avoid the agony that ill health and accidents cause
Help businesses avoid the financial costs of occupational ill health and accidents.
All companies in the petroleum sector should strive to prepare workers with training exercises in case of emergencies and hold safety meetings with their team regularly to ensure potential risks are addressed and safety practices are reinforced. This will enable them to meet the common goal of preventing accidents and illnesses, and by so doing, improve productivity.