Oil and gas is one of the sectors that are faced with strong claims on
ethics and different aspects of corporate social responsibility. Most of
these claims arise from substandard and risky working environment that
employees of oil and gas companies operate. To this end, various
organizations (both governmental and non-governmental) and oil and gas
companies develop safety and procedures that reduce exposure of
employees to health risks and other occupational hazards as well as
improving their working conditions. The employer, manufacturers of
equipment and facilities (including chemicals and machines) used in oil
fields, and their suppliers have a primary responsibility of training
employees with sufficient information and guidance on their usage to
protect workers` health and prevent the occurrence of potential risks.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss the importance and capacity of
oil safety and procedures to safety of employees. Safety and procedures
set by different organizations provide sufficient guidelines for
assessment, detection, and prevention of occupational hazards, thus
ensuring the safety of oilfield workers.
The need for safety procedures for oil field workers
Oil and gas sector is naturally dangerous and characterized by different
types of bodily harms and death. In addition, oil field workers are
subjected to a wide range of risks and occupation hazards that include
exposure to toxic chemicals and gases, injuries from machines and
equipments, and risk of potential explosions. Research has shown that
employees working in oil fields are a greater risk of being exposed to
high levels toxic gases especially the hydrogen sulfide that exceeds 10
parts per million (PPM) (United States Department of Labor 1).
Inhalation of these gases subject oil field workers to chronic health
hazards and risk of death. In addition, some oil fields are naturally
risky and expensive to exploit because of the depth and geological
fragility. These oil fields are considered traditionally explosive
areas, which increase occupational hazards for employees (Pennington 1).
This potential risk necessitates the formulation of safety standards and
procedures that are integrated into company policies for the purpose of
protecting oil field operators.
OSHA safety rules and procedures and their importance
Occupational safety and health administration (OSHA) is one of the
organizations that have formulated safety rules and procedures some of
which are industry specific with the primary objective of ensuring that
the working environment is safe for all workers. However, there are
some broad procedures that are applicable to all workplaces. All the
safety rules and procedures developed by OSHA place the primary
responsibility of maintaining a safe workplace environment for
employers, but employees also have some duties to play in ensuring their
safety at work. In addition, OSHA standards take precedence over
industry or company specific standards, which are mostly developed from
OSHA standards. These standards are sub-divided into industry and type
of operation to reduce complexity and enhance compliance under all
circumstances (Southwest Training Institute 2). The safety procedure
developed to guide employees and employers in the oil and gas industry
aim at promoting safe working conditions for all employees who are
engaged in well servicing operations and drilling operations.
OSHA procedures promote early detection of potential occupational risks
and reporting of serious incidents immediately after their occurrences.
Risk identification and reporting procedures are universal and require
that all employers to inform OSHA about serious incidents (defined as
occurrences in which at least three people are hospitalized) within a
period of less than eight hours (Coffman 1). However, states have rules
that require employees to submit an amputation report within a period of
thirty days. Risk assessment procedures, hazard detection, and reporting
assist employers in developing the suitable mitigations and recovery
measures. For example, these safety procedures help employers in
assessing potential health risks and planning for employee protection
from a wide range of health hazards associated with oil and gas
extraction (IPIECA 2). The early detection of risks protect
employees’ health and life while timely reporting procedures ensure
that appropriate actions are taken to minimize the impact of risks that
have already occurred.
Employee training is a universal safety procedure that is given
sufficient emphasis by OSHA and individual company safety policies and
procedures. Under OSHA safety procedures, employees are required to
offer training programs to employees in areas that are perceived to have
any known hazards free of charge (Coffman 1). The OSHA safety rules on
employee training also referred to as 29 CFR 1910.1200 is a three part
process. The rule requires employers to maintain a written program of
policies and procedures that are necessary for staff training and
documentation of training skills offered in all areas of working
environment. The existence of such rules and procedures ensures that
employers do not ignore even the simplest forms of potential risks in
their workplace. For example, the presence of chemicals and gases (such
hydrogen sulfide) in the working place, irrespective of the magnitude of
damage they can cause, should be taken seriously by providing employees
with a written training program on all chemicals within their working
environment. This increases employees’ awareness of potential risks
and their capacity to work cautiously to avoid them. In addition, the
OSHA training rules require that all employers provide training programs
to employees’ safe use of work-related equipment, recognition of
hazards, and ability to establish the relationship between hazards and
Apart from the universal safe rules and procedures provided by different
organizations, oil and gas companies develop their own procedures that
are tailored to meet the safety standards of their working conditions.
This is important because oil companies operate in fields with varying
degrees of occupational risk, thus requiring different types of safety
procedures. The safety procedures formulated by the Graco Oilfield
Services Company emphasize on employee empowerment to protect themselves
through training programs, provision of equipment for personal
protection, ad requiring all employees to comply with safety rules set
by the company (Rambo 4). For example, a written employee safety program
on injury and prevention procedure to give their consent to participate
in maintaining a healthful working environment. This is because there is
no company with full capacity to anticipate all forms of hazards, thus
empowering employees to be safety conscious is a priority. However, the
company has the responsibility of maintaining the required documentation
of safety standards, instructional posters, and warnings.
Importance of BBS procedures in continuous detection and correction of
A properly conducted behavior based safety (BBS) program is an effective
procedure that can help oil companies in maintaining a safer workplace
at all times. The program involves the documentation of observations and
incident rates within the workplace. A quality observation of incidents
is defined as an observation that is performed by a trained staff with
full knowledge of how to check for problems and provide the necessary
feedback to other workers at the end of the observation (Agraz-Boeneker
19). The behavior based safety procedure acts as a reliable source of
information for detection of at-risk behavior, thus protecting employees
from health hazards and injuries. However, an effective BBS procedure
should only be conducted by members of staff who have the capacity to
recognize and perceive in their workplace. According to Agraz-Boeneker
(19) a quality observation earns credibility if the observer invests
enough time and understands the responsibility to detect unusual
behavior. In addition, BBS ensures that the company has maintained a
continuous observation and correction of safety related issues, which
results in the adoption of safety metrics that enhance the safety of
In conclusion safety and procedures set by different organizations
provide sufficient guidelines for assessment, detection, and prevention
of occupational hazards, thus ensuring the safety of oilfield workers.
Although the safety rules and procedures are set by different
organizations, the primary objective is to reduce employee exposure to
hazards that can be prevented or reducing the impact of risks that has
already taken place. The most effective safety rules and procedures are
set by established organizations such as OSHA and provide sufficient
guidance to oil and gas companies as well as other enterprises in
setting safety rules that suit their respective workplace environment.
Most importantly, safety rules and procedures assist oil and gas
companies in early detection of occupational hazards, reporting and
documentation of risks that has occurred, and empowering employees to
ensure that they maintain a safe working environment through training
programs. Behavior based safety is a procedure that assist employers in
maintaining a continuous observation and documentation of at-risk
behavior among employees.
Agraz-Boeneker, R., Groves, A. and Haight, M. An examination of
observations and incidence rates for a behavior based safety program.
The American Society of Safety Engineers, 4 (3), 1-22.
Coffman, L. OSHA safety procedures. Santa Monica: Demand Media
Incorporation, 2013. Web.
IPIECA. Managing health for field operations in oil and gas activities:
A guide for managers and supervisors in the oil and gas industry. IPECA,
Pennington, L. Pennington, P. and Bennett, J. Oil and gas drilling rig
hazards. Occupational Health Safety. 01 July. 2009. Web. 11 November
Southwest Training Institute. Oil and gas industry guidelines.
Carrollton, TX: OSHA Training Institute, 2006. Print.
Rambo, D. Graco oilfield service safety policy. Frisco TX: Graco
Oilfield Services, 2011. Print.
United States Department of Labor. Occupational safety & health
administration: oil and gas well drilling and servicing tool. Washington
DC: United States Department of Labor, 2013. Web.
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Oil and gas is one of the sectors that are faced with strong claims on