Top 5 Risks in the Oil and Gas Industry
A career in the oil and gas industry can be rewarding, but it is also one of the most dangerous industries for workers. The Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada reports that the Mining, Quarrying & Oil Wells industry experienced about 2,000 work-related injuries and 60 deaths in 2018. Companies try to mitigate workplace hazards through safety training and regular inspections, but accidents can still happen.
If you are involved in the oil and gas industry it is important to keep these top five workplace risks in mind.
1. Explosion and Fires
Explosions and fires may not be as common as other oil and gas incidents, but they can be the most devastating. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the oil and gas industry has more deaths caused by fires and explosions than any other private industry in the U.S.
Fires can occur when flammable liquids or vapors are exposed to ignition sources like lightning, cigarettes, open flames, electrical sources, and sparks from hot work, but less obvious ignition sources include static, friction, and hot surfaces. Explosions can occur when a fire gets out of control or if a vessel breaks under pressure.
While not as flashy as other risks, slips, trips, and falls are a significant hazard in the oil and gas industry. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, about 42,000 employees are injured by a fall annually, which is about 18% of all workplace injuries in Canada. Sixty-seven percent of falls are trips and slips and another 30% are falls from heights.
3. Getting Caught in or Caught by Equipment
In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that three out of five fatalities on oil and gas extraction sites were the result of being struck by, caught in, or caught between hazards, including vehicles, high-pressure lines, and falling equipment. The chance of fatality increases when an employee is working by him- or herself.
4. Confined Spaces
In the oil and gas industry, employees may be required to work in storage tanks, pits, excavated areas, and wellheads. Work in confined spaces is necessary but extremely dangerous. If the confined space fills with a dangerous substance, caves in, or has an exit blocked, a worker’s life is at risk. The 3M company found that Canada loses 100 workers in confined spaces annually, and half of those people are the would-be rescuers.
5. Hazardous Materials
It’s not always possible to eliminate hazardous materials on oil and gas worksites. Besides oil and gas being inherently volatile, workers may also encounter hydrogen sulfide (H2S), carbon monoxide, emulsion breaks, corrosion inhibitors, and biocides – not to mention all of the chemicals used to clean the equipment. One-time exposure is not the only concern; for example, the long-term effects of H2S exposure or carbon monoxide inhalation can result in physical and mental damage.
A career in this industry can be rewarding, but it is not without risk. Be aware of all workplace hazards, communicate with your colleagues, your managers, and choose a company with a strong health and safety program.