The oil and gas industry currently employs over half a million members of the U.S. population. While most companies in the industry are taking all the appropriate steps to minimize the possibility of accidents, serious injuries and fatalities are still quite common. Because injuries acquired by oil workers are often more severe than in other industries, recovery time is often far longer.
Here are some of the biggest dangers faced by oil and gas workers:
While many industries require the use of dangerous equipment, the oil and gas industry ranks significantly higher than most others. Some of this equipment is operated in unguarded areas, creating even more dangerous conditions for workers. This underscores the importance of hiring only the most competent operators.
Drilling equipment is notoriously noisy, which can cause hearing damage to workers. Earplugs are necessary to help prevent both short and long-term damage. Protective gloves help protect workers from cuts and other injuries that might otherwise occur to their hands.
Another hazard for oil and gas industry workers is chemical exposure. Drilling and processing plants often make use of hazardous chemicals that can cause respiratory issues and brain problems for workers. Crude oil shippers and pipeline operators are often explosed to high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which can cause cancers, paralysis and death.
Other symptoms of toxic chemical exposure include dizziness, headaches, nausea, chemical burns and irritation of the skin and eyes. For this reason it’s important to ensure that workers wear the appropriate protective gear for their eyes, faces and respiratory systems.
In addition to toxicity, many chemicals used in the oil and gas industry are highly combustible. There’s always a high risk of fire and explosion, often with little or no warning, making such accidents difficult to prevent.
In addition to having a detailed plan for dealing with fires, oil and gas workers must be equipped with extinguishers and fire suppression agents in case something goes wrong. They should all have protective clothing, such as fire resistant pants, shirts and coveralls. All employees must be trained in how to prevent fires and explosions, as well as what to do when they do occur.
Another safety hazard for oil workers is the risk of falling from elevated platforms. Fall protection systems should always be in place and workers should all have the appropriate safety wear whenever they’re on the job.
All spills should be cleaned up immediately and slip-resistant boots should be employed to improve traction. Signs should be placed in all appropriate areas to warn others of the dangers of slipping and all open cellars should be covered. Guardrails and ladders must also be kept in good condition to ensure they do not fail. Hard hats, goggles, masks and gloves should be worn at all times.
In addition to all the hazards faced by oil workers at the rig, road accidents also pose a significant risk to oil and gas workers. Employees often work long hours at the rig, then take long drives to the company outlet. It’s not unusual for these workers to be too tired to drive safely.
Other workers’ jobs involve hauling water needed for the fracking process. Due to the tremendous amounts of water needed, more trucks are on the roads than ever before. Exhausted truckers have been known to make poor decisions on the road, leading to an increased risk for collisions.
While there are numerous hazards for oil and gas workers, these are the ones that are most common. It’s important to note that because the work is already inherently dangerous, extra precautions must be taken by all employees to minimize these risks.