From a distance, it is easy to see that oil and gas sites look different than most general industry sites. But, even though the work being done at oil and gas sites is very labor intensive and presents multiple hazards, the risks that these employees face each day are not unique.
The top causes of fatalities in the oil and gas industry are similar to those found in general industry. However, the fatality rate for oil and gas workers is seven times higher than other industries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recognizing the top hazards causing fatalities and injuries is the first step in developing plans, procedures, and training that prevent these incidents.
As in general industry, highway incidents are the top cause of oil and gas employee fatalities. In the oil and gas industry, transportation-related incidents cause four out of every 10 fatalities. Long and irregular work hours, driving on secondary and unpaved roads, and traveling in inclement weather are main contributors to these incidents.
Establishing and enforcing a driver safety policy helps employees to recognize driving hazards such as in-vehicle distractions, driver fatigue, and deteriorating weather and road conditions. Ensuring that company-owned vehicles are appropriate and properly maintained, requiring seat belts to be worn while traveling, and checking employee driving records periodically also help to reduce occurrences.
The ever-changing nature of oil and gas worksites requires everyone on site to be constantly aware of their surroundings. Moving vehicles, heavy equipment, high-pressure hoses and lines, overhead cranes, and cables all contribute to the second leading cause of fatalities at oil and gas sites: contact injuries.
Three out of five on-site fatalities are caused by struck-by, caught-in, or caught-between hazards. Engineering controls such as alarms on vehicles, whip checks on high-pressure hose lines, and physical barriers around storage areas help to promote awareness. Signage and temporary barriers can also be used to increase visibility of new or changing hazards and help to reinforce what has been taught during training and toolbox talks.
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