Too many workers are dying in the oil and gas drilling industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the oil and gas fatality rate in 2012 was 7.6 times higher in the USA than the all-industry rate of 3.2 deaths per 100,000 workers.
More than 450,000 workers were employed in the oil and gas industries in 2011 (Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages). These workers are engaged in many different industrial processes needed to successfully drill and service a well. These processes frequently require the use of specialized equipment and specialized work crews.
From 2003 to 2010, 823 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job–a fatality rate seven times greater than the rate for all U.S. industries (Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries). Safety and health hazards and dangerous conditions that can result in fatalities for oil and gas workers include:
To protect employees, employers need to ensure that:
By identifying and eliminating hazards and training oil and gas workers to control these hazards, you can save lives.
Note: If you're new to the oil and gas industry and want a good overview of the drilling process and rig components, be sure to watch a good review which can be found by clicking on the "Video" tab above.
Regardless of company size, the task force employed at a well site is fairly small.
Tool Pusher. A typical drilling rig employs a tool pusher to supervise the drilling operation. Depending on well site location, he may be in charge of more than one rig.
Driller. The driller (shift foreman) is responsible for the immediate direction of work on the drilling rig. He operates the rig controls, supervises the changing of drill pipe and tripping operations, and directs any maintenance or repair work.
Derrickman. The crew usually consists of one derrickman (relief driller) performing tasks from the upper portion of the derrick during tripping operations. The derrickman is normally the second man in charge of drilling operations.
Floormen. Three rotary helpers, or floormen, perform tasks associated with the addition of pipe joints during drilling and tripping.
Motorman. For large operations, such as deeper wells, the crew usually includes a motorman (usually the most experienced rotary helper) who is in charge of the mechanics of the equipment and also acts as a floorhand during tripping procedures, and an additional rotary helper.
Electrician. An electrician normally is employed on electrically powered drilling rigs.
Drilling operations are continuous (24 hours/day, 7 days/week) until the well has been completed. When a well is being drilled, the rig usually is staffed for three 8-hour shifts, although in some remote areas the operation uses two 12-hour shifts.
Smaller drilling rigs normally require an average of five persons per shift (not including the tool pusher), whereas seven or eight persons per shift are needed on a larger rotary rig.Approximately seven employees per shift is a reasonable estimate of the number of persons at risk on a typical drilling operation.
Oil and gas industry accidents will be reduced when people who work on well sites are selected properly, oriented well, completely trained, retrained when necessary, always motivated and retained to become the best career oil field staff.
Selection - Selecting properly from a more qualified pool of applicants will begin to occur when escalation of activity in the industry decreases, or levels out, or when better retention of workers reduces the need for constant replacements. At the present time manpower needs are so urgent in the oil and gas industry that normal selection procedures are often by-passed.
Orientation - Orientation would be improved by industry cooperation with educational institutions in providing information and courses to prospective employees about opportunities in the oil fields. Recruitment should include exposure to packaged audio visual orientation material that would take the surprise out of first days on the job.
Training – Worker training must compensate for lack of experience when new employees, because of necessity, are promoted rapidly. The industry should be challenged to research the best methods and to implement excellent programs to train employees.
Retraining – Remaining aware of danger, as familiarity kills caution, requires constant retraining in a variety of ways in order to retain interest. This constitutes another developmental thrust for training institutions and personnel.
Motivation – Worker motivation to work safely and to stay within the industry must come from the companies. The opportunity to be employed year-around, develop pride in working for a good company, experience satisfaction with job conditions, know the work is meaningful and be rewarded generously should lessen the movement of workers throughout the industry. It will assist in raising public opinions about oil field work to the status of a respected career.
When initially employed, a worker should receive instruction and training pertinent to the hazards, safety precautions, safe work practices, and use of personal protective equipment applicable to the type of work performed.
The safety training oil and gas employees receive should adequately orient and alert the new employee to:
Each new employee should receive training in the safe use of all equipment or tools that are necessary for use and the safe performance of assigned tasks. The employer should require the worker demonstrate his ability to safely operate the tool or equipment prior to using it in a drilling situation.
As an employee advances to new positions and tasks, he should demonstrate his knowledge and ability to safely operate the equipment and perform the tasks before he is required to perform them in a drilling situation.
Retraining should be conducted as needed to ensure that employees are able to perform their tasks in a safe manner.
North American Drilling Corporation's recent drilling operations in west Texas, USA. Video is a guided tour of the drilling rig used to drill the Boothe # 1A Oil Well.
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