With a variety of potential hazards and dangers to be aware of, health and safety is vital in the oil and gas industry. Some of the common hazards encountered in the oil and gas industry are ‘struck-by’, ‘caught-in’ and ‘caught between’ hazards.
A struck-by injury is one coming from contact or impact between an object/piece of machinery or equipment and a person. Many objects can cause a struck-by hazard, such as flying, falling, swinging and rolling objects. For example, a piece of material separating from a machine or tool and being propelled across the area would be classified as a ‘struck-by flying object’ hazard.
Caught-in and caught-between hazards
Caught-in and caught-between injuries occur when a person is crushed between objects. This is different from a struck-by injury, where it is the impact between object and person which creates the injury. One example of this type of hazard is a pinned between hazard where a person could become stuck between a piece of machinery and a wall, for example.
Another potential hazard to be aware of in the oil and gas industry are fall hazards. It is possible that workers may be required to carry out work at height, giving rise to potential fall hazards. The challenging environment and conditions which are present at many oil extraction sites only exacerbate this risk. Fall protection equipment such as harnesses can enhance worker safety and reduce the risk of fall hazards.
Gas Hazards, Explosions and Fires
Of course, as the process of oil and gas extraction involves working so closely with oil and gas, workers are exposed to a number of gas hazards. Fires and explosions are some of the most serious incidents that can happen on oil and gas extraction sites and are a real cause for concern due to the presence of flammable gases and vapours. These potentially catastrophic gases and vapours may be released from wells as well as equipment and machinery including shale shakers.
Some of the most prevalent gases on oil and gas extraction sites are hydrocarbons including methane, propane and pentane and hydrogen sulphide. Hydrogen sulphide exposure can lead to numerous health impacts such as insomnia, convulsions, dizziness and headaches.
Having the right gas detection solution is vital to ensuring workers are alerted to the presence of harmful gases in plenty of time. Crowcon’s Fgard IR3 Flame Detector is an explosion proof multi spectrum IR flame detector capable of detecting hydrocarbon fires at a range of metres. For hydrogen sulphide detection, the XgardIQ with Crowcon’s high temperature H2S sensor ensures continued detection in even the most challenging environments.
Oil and gas extraction workers may be required to enter confined spaces such as storage tanks and mud pits, which presents a number of risks. Depending on the type of confined space, there is the potential risk of asphyxiation or loss of consciousness due to gas, fume, vapour, or lack of oxygen , drowning from an increase in the level of a liquid and serious injury due to fire or explosion.
Drilling fluids, silica dust and NORM
There are a number of substances which are present on oil and gas extraction sites that can negatively impact the health of workers.
Fluids which are circulated through the well during drilling can contain small amounts of hydrocarbons and exposure to these fluids can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches and inflammation of the respiratory system
Silica sand is often used in hydraulic fracturing, leading to the generation of Silica dust which can cause silicosis, a long-term lung disease.
NORM stands for naturally occurring radioactive materials. As the name suggests, these are small amounts of radioactive materials naturally contained in the earth. Concentrations of NORM tend to be low enough that they are not a cause for concern, however oil extraction can reveal or create higher concentrations, with workers in gas processing facilities being specifically at risk.