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No Pain, All Gain: Five Tips for Preventing Workplace Injuries at Your Oil & Gas Facilities

Oil refinery during the nightIn most careers, a workplace injury might leave you with a nasty sprain or a few bruises. In the case of an oil rig or remote processing plant, there’s a good chance it will be fatal. This is, after all, an industry where employees deal with toxic chemicals, heavy machinery, dangerous heights, and a host of other hazards on a daily basis.

(This blog is by Efraim Petel, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at AtHoc. It was originally published on the AtHoc blog)

Excepting a few rare cases, such accidents are entirely preventable.  It’s all in how you approach workplace safety. If you’re truly interested in plant-wide safety, you need to do more than install a sign that shows how many days a workplace has gone without injury.

Conducting a risk assessment is a good first step here, but it’s also the minimum of what you should be doing. If you really want to keep your workers healthy and your facilities operational, there are several additional steps you need to take.

1)      Make Sure Your Managers Are Committed to Safety, Dignity, and Respect

The most important aspect of workplace safety lies in workplace culture.

Is your management team committed to the well-being of their employees? Do your employees understand the importance of safety protocols and best practices? Is everyone held to the same standard of excellence and importance? Is employee health and well-being prioritized over a list of inflexible security protocols?

Happy workers are accident-free workers. Employees that are engaged with their work are also up to 70% less likely to be involved in a safety incident compared to those in a toxic work environment, according to Gallup Research.

2)      Enact Strict Maintenance and Quality Requirements for Equipment

Oil plants are intricate, complex machines. And like many machines, all it takes for everything to fall apart is one out-of-place cog. Maybe it’s a malfunctioning blowout preventer or a corroded pipe.  Maybe it’s storm-damaged infrastructure or a faulty valve.

Whatever the root cause, it doesn’t take much for a facility to go from minor equipment failure to full-blown crisis. To avoid this, you need to hold plant maintenance to exacting standards. Here are a few tips to that end:

  • Inspect equipment before you turn it on.
  • Clean fuel and furnace nozzles to prevent damaging build-up.
  • Service your pumps and furnace chimneys to prevent the build-up of grease. During periods of particularly high activity, you may want to service more frequently.
  • Install embedded sensors throughout your facility to keep track of component quality and to give you an early warning in the event of equipment failure.

By properly maintaining your equipment, you’ll not only prevent accidents from happening, you’ll also ensure your entire plant works more efficiently.

3)      Put Regularly-Updated Safety Protocols in Place

In addition to properly maintaining your equipment, you need to implement training programs, procedures, and workplace regulations to keep your workers safe. These programs and documents should cover the following:

  • Proper procedure for equipment activation, use, and shutdown.
  • Required safety equipment such as hard hats, gloves, safety goggles, steel-toed boots, hazard suits, and so on.
  • Crisis situations your employees may face, and their responsibilities in each. These should detail exit routes and emergency action plans.
  • Safe working hours, personal health, and the importance of self care.

4)      Don’t Change Too Much, Too Fast

According to a presentation by MIT Professor Nancy Leveson, most major workplace accidents occur immediately after something in the workplace is changed. Instead of making sweeping changes all at once, gradually implement new processes and systems – and communicate them well, see point 5 – so employees have a chance to settle into a new way of doing things.

5)      Re-Evaluate Your Communication and Reporting Systems

Group of male workers at oil refineryAnother major issue pointed out by Leveson is flawed communication and reporting systems:

“In a surprisingly large number of accidents, unsafe conditions were detected prior to the actual loss events or precursor events,” she explained. “They were not adequately reported or investigated so that the loss event could be prevented.”

Such events can be avoided through better communication and reporting systems.

Ask yourself: do your current tools allow employees to communicate efficiently with one another on the job? Do they work well with your plant’s other alert systems and sensors to inform you when something’s gone wrong? Do they help you keep track of event reports and communication logs?

AtHoc does, while also keeping your staff connected and protected if an emergency does occur. Designed to integrate easily with every component of a plant’s infrastructure, it provides real-time messaging and alerting before, during, and after crisis situations, in addition to giving employees an easy way to stay in touch on the job.

While its role as a crisis communication platform allows it to ensure a fast response should an emergency occur, AtHoc can also send automated warnings to the necessary parties in the event of equipment failure. And thanks to its robust logging and reporting functionality, it’s easy to keep searchable records of each communique and event.

Closing Thoughts

Accidents happen, but only rarely are they inevitable. As an employer, it’s your job to protect your employees, both from failing equipment and their own carelessness. The stakes should you fail to do so could be catastrophically high.

Through AtHoc – and by following the advice laid out in this piece – you’ll ensure you’ve nothing to worry about.

Learn more about what AtHoc can do for your business here.

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