Workers in the oil and gas extraction industry continue to be one of the highest at risk of injuries and fatalities on the job compared to all other industries in the United States. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) revealed that out of 120 workplace deaths in the mining, oil and gas extraction industry, 74 of them occurred within the support activities for oil and gas operations (NAICS 213112).
The constant pressure of efficient productivity due to the high cost of drilling projects, time away from home, long work days, and high physical demands takes a hefty toll on workers. These factors can ultimately affect worker safety by causing an increase in human error including misuse of equipment and inconsistent procedures that can lead to higher chance of accidents.
Improving Safety for Oil and Gas Workers
This reinforces the importance of the re-evaluation of safety programs and behavior to more effectively address worker safety issues and reduce the rate of injuries and accidents in the industry. Apply these tips to improve worker safety on your next project:
1. Collaborate with the Local Emergency Response Community
Develop a relationship with local emergency response organizations and establish a consistent flow of communication to provide a higher level of overall safety. Emergency responders, rig hands, and exploration company safety and health professionals must work together to utilize their resources to be ready to handle emergencies swiftly and successfully. Discuss specific health and safety hazards that exist at the drilling location and determine how to best assist each other in these emergencies. If possible, take emergency responders on a tour of the drilling site or rig to give them a clearer idea of how to approach potential emergencies.
2. Invest in a Safety Program that Unites Workers
Encourage an environment of open communication and respect. Embrace a personal approach to safety training and dedicate time to allow workers to get to know each other. Building more substantial personal connections with fellow workers will inherently build trust and comradery when out in the field to improve overall safety.
3. Actively Monitor Mental Health of Workers
A large factor that negatively affects safety in the industry is worker culture. Eliminate the age-old “tough guy” exterior and stereotype that is typically associated with workers in the industry by promoting a transparent and open environment through various training techniques and team exercises. Building a sense of community and trust with workers will make it easier for them to be more willing to ask for help, obey rules, admit mistakes, and seek advice making for a more positive and safe environment.
Research conducted on mobile workers in the Alberta Oil Sands in 2014 revealed masculine work cultures, or what it means to be a “man” in these environments, caused men to internalize their feeling of exhaustion, stress, and more, leaving their physical and mental health hanging on by a thread until it’s too late.