If you are working in the Louisiana oilfields, you will no doubt know that your occupation is one of the deadliest jobs there are. The risks you face every day are far more than what workers in most other industries face, and the number of fatal oilfield accidents nationwide is significantly higher than the averages in other sectors. Knowing that you risk your life every day might help you to recognize the hazards and avoid injury — or worse.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the primary causes of oilfield fatalities include struck-by hazards, fires and falls. While many other hazards exist, dealing with the most common risks might be a good start to protect yourself.
Prevent struck-by hazards
Safety authorities say three in five oilfield fatalities follow struck-by accidents. It can involve moving equipment or vehicles, high-pressure lines and dropped tools. The following precautions might prevent dropped tools from striking a co-worker:
- Attach tools to the platform structure or a tool belt.
- Protect edges of elevated levels with toe boards, guardrails or screens, and barricade lower levels.
- Avoid standing underneath high work areas or suspended loads.
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including a hard hat.
- Maneuver suspended loads with taglines and monitor maintenance of rigging, lifting and hoisting equipment.
- Perform frequent inspections and replace frayed lines.
Beware the fall hazards
OSHA requires anyone working four feet or higher off ground level to wear fall protection. Your job in the oil field might have you working at heights of 30 to 100 feet — often on small platforms with unprotected edges. Make sure you understand the workings of the anchor, body harness and connectors of your fall protection, and never go without it. Take note of the following typical causes of falls in the oil industry:
- Spills or oily surfaces and debris can cause slips and trips.
- Elevated levels without protected edges or sides pose severe risks.
- Failure to wear fall protection or the improper use of it can be detrimental.
- Improper use of ladders can cause serious injuries, even if you fall from a relatively low rung.
- Working on unstable surfaces is exceptionally hazardous.
Fatigue increases injury risk
Fatigue is a significant problem in this industry, and it is crucial to consider the following:
- Your shifts could be between eight and 16 hours long.
- Your work cycle could last for seven to 14 days without time off.
- Excessive heat can cause fatigue that might lead to heat stress.
- Fatigue slows reaction time, increasing injury risks.
Fire and explosion risks
Flammable gases and vapors are prevalent and the slightest spark could cause disaster. The following precautions might prevent fires:
- Ensure that internal-combustion engines have spark arrestors.
- Always comply with ‘No Smoking’ signs in hazardous areas.
- Keep vehicles with catalytic converters away from the rig.
- Make sure all equipment or facilities that produce sparks are safe distances away from hazardous areas.
- Prohibit any open flames on the drill site.
Injuries could be traumatic
Many of the oilfield injuries that occur in Louisiana are traumatic — especially when they involve fires or explosions. Your condition might make it challenging to navigate a workers’ compensation benefits claim. However, resources are available to deal with the administrative and legal proceedings on your behalf.