Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | 29 July 2015

CDC Releases Updated Mortality Data on Silicosis

Silicosis is a potentially fatal but preventable occupational lung disease caused by inhaling respirable crystalline silica. Chronic silicosis, the most common form, occurs after exposure to relatively low silica concentrations for more than10 years. Accelerated silicosis occurs after 5–10 years of exposure to higher silica levels, and acute silicosis can occur after only weeks or months of exposure to extremely high silica concentrations.

New national mortality data for silicosis have become available since a previous report on silicosis surveillance was published earlier this year. CDC reviewed multiple cause-of-death mortality files from the National Center for Health Statistics to analyze deaths from silicosis reported during 1999–2013. Each record lists one underlying cause of death (the disease or injury that initiated the chain of events that led directly and inevitably to death) and up to 20 contributing causes of death (other significant conditions contributing to death but not resulting in underlying cause).

Available death certificates from 35 states were reviewed for the period 2004–2006 to identify occupations associated with silicosis among decedents aged 15–44 years. Results indicate that, despite substantial progress in eliminating silicosis, silicosis deaths continue to occur. Of particular concern are silicosis deaths in young adults (aged 15–44 years). These young deaths likely reflect higher exposures than those causing chronic silicosis mortality in older people, some of sufficient magnitude to cause severe disease and death after relatively short periods of exposure. A total of 12 such deaths occurred during 2011–2013, with nine that had silicosis listed as the underlying cause of death.

During 1999–2013, a total of 2,065 decedents had silicosis listed as the underlying or as a contributing cause of death. The annual number of silicosis deaths declined 40% from 185 in 1999 to 111 in 2013, but the decline appears to have leveled off during 2010–2013. The lowest number of silicosis deaths (88) occurred in 2011. Higher numbers of deaths occurred in 2012 (103) and 2013 (111), but remained within the 95% confidence interval predicted by the first-order autoregressive linear regression model used to evaluate trends for 1999–2013. Among all silicosis deaths, 47 (2.3%) decedents were aged 15–44 years; of these, 34 (72.3%) had silicosis coded as the underlying cause of death. The annual number of silicosis deaths in persons aged 15–44 years varied and was 4, 0, and 8 in 2011, 2012, and 2013, respectively.

IOSH | 29 July 2015

New IOSH-Accredited Course Promotes Safe Working With Nanomaterials

The potential risks of working with and using nanomaterials are the subject of a new training course funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).

With the growth of the nanotechnologies industry globally, an increasingly diverse range of products are being created which use nanomaterials to improve qualities such as their strength, durability and absorbency.

There currently exists, however, gaps in knowledge about the health risks associated with nanomaterials, which are manufactured and used at a microscopic scale and can be many thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

This has led IOSH to fund the creation of a new training course which promotes safe working practices with nanomaterials.

The course has been developed by IOM Singapore, a subsidiary of the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), and aims to give laboratory staff, students, and safety and health professionals at universities and other research and development facilities a good understanding of approaches toward safe and healthy working in laboratories where nanomaterials are used or produced.

Public Library of Science | 22 July 2015

Study: Unconventional Gas and Oil Drilling Is Associated With Increased Hospital Utilization Rates

Over the past 10 years, unconventional gas and oil drilling has markedly expanded in the United States. Despite substantial increases in well drilling, the health consequences of drilling toxicant exposure remain unclear. This study examines an association between wells and healthcare use by zip code from 2007 to 2011 in three counties in Pennsylvania.

Evidence supported an association between well density and inpatient prevalence rates for the medical categories of dermatology, neurology, oncology, and urology. The data suggest that unconventional gas and oil wells, which dramatically increased in the past decade, were associated with increased inpatient prevalence rates within specific medical categories in Pennsylvania. Further studies are necessary to address healthcare costs of unconventional gas and oil drilling and determine whether specific toxicants or combinations are associated with organ-specific responses.

Oil Review Middle East | 14 July 2015

New Service Offers Disease Advice for Oil and Gas Industry

The medical and security risk services company Pandemic Information said that it is specifically targeted at international oil and gas companies, assisting them to develop disease preparedness plans.

The portal shares information on best practices for pandemic response plans, including information on, and analysis of, emerging infectious disease outbreaks.

“The goal of pandemic planning is for organizations to be able to assess and respond appropriately to potential risks to their workers as part of their duty of care and to help assure the continuation of their operations,” explained Doug Quarry, medical director at International SOS.

IPIECA | 9 July 2015

Guidance Document Addresses Fatigue in Fly-in, Fly-out Operations

A document released by the IPIECA is designed to provide managers with a practical, broad-based guide to understanding, recognizing, and managing fatigue and fatigue-related issues in fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) operations in the oil and gas sector. The document talks about the nature of FIFO operations and describes the parameters that need to be considered to manage fatigue—for example, sleep, accommodation, travel planning, and fatigue risk management systems.


IPIECA | 9 July 2015

IPIECA Releases Health Leading Performance Indicators With 2014 Data

In 2008, the joint Health Committee of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) and IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues, published OGP Report No. 393, Health Performance Indicators—A Guide for the Oil and Gas Industry. Content from that report was used to develop two tools that can be used to assess health leading performance indicators within individual companies and to compare performance between different parts of a company and between participating companies.

Both tools were used in 2014 to gauge health performance between participating IOGP and IPIECA member companies. The results are published in Report No. 2014h. The data represent 26 companies, all of which provided data for both tools.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | 28 May 2015

Pennsylvania Wades Into Ambiguous Area of Noise Regulation

Pennsylvania environmental regulators, who generally prefer the familiar matters of soil, air, and water, are tackling the vagaries of noise from oil and gas development and finding that rules for sound are best left loose.

The Department of Environmental Protection is proposing to require companies drilling and fracking in the Marcellus and other gas-rich shales to make and follow site-specific plans to mitigate noise from well pads.

The draft rules do not set limits for how loud operations can be at certain times or distances. Instead, they tell companies to evaluate the normal noise in an area before drilling begins and take steps to minimize noise reaching nearby residents during the temporary but cacophonous work up until the point when a well starts sending gas to a pipeline.

DEP officials say they have taken a lesson from other states and regions that have a long history of regulating noise from oil and gas operations, particularly the Canadian province of Alberta, and stayed away from establishing firm decibel limits that can seem unambiguous but are in practice difficult or unfair to enforce.

“It necessarily has to be flexible enough for the site-specific characteristics,” said Scott Perry, DEP’s deputy secretary for oil and gas management, during a recent discussion of the proposal at an oil and gas advisory board meeting in Harrisburg.


7 May 2015

Five-Phase Model Aims To Maintain Psychological Well-Being While Away From Home

Oil and gas industry workers are often tasked with spending extended durations away from home while working onsite. And these absences can have a significant effect on the workers’ psychological well-being. A paper presented at the 2015 SPE Health, Safety, Security, and Environmental Conference—Americas proposed a five-phase model for managing the psychological stress of extended stays away from home.

Paper SPE 173559, by Simon Seaton and Thomas Jelley of Sodexo, breaks the experience of being away into five phases: predeparture planning, being away, preparing to return, returning, and being back. The authors of the paper had three environments in mind when considering time away from home—the military, universities, and the oil and gas industry.

“We understand, quite well I think, somebody’s physical well-being. We’d like to think of psychological well-being in the same way,” Seaton said. “What we’re trying to do is make the psychological well-being a lot more stable, a lot more managed, a lot more predictable, and try and avoid bad days and bad outcomes … and, therefore, have a workforce that is much more engaged, motivated, and clearly focused on their job at hand, which is, at times, a very difficult and challenging job.”

Predeparture Planning
Modern communication technology makes keeping in touch while away easier, but there are also potential drawbacks. Expecting that technology will mitigate separation, travelers may fail to

  • Discuss expectations
  • Say goodbye properly and acknowledge that the coming separation is real
  • Set up support networks
  • Agree on a main point of contact so the person away is not under pressure to allocate potentially little free time or communication resources to a large number of people for similar updates

The first three points can apply as easily to a parent away on a short business trip as to someone away for much longer. The last point applies especially to individuals in more difficult, longer-term absence, such as military personnel on deployment.

Being Away
While away, technology offers only an artificial sense of connectedness. Seeing someone on a screen is not the same as being together. Daily experiences at different ends of a phone or video call may be so different that real-time connection is frustrating and counterproductive.

Also, sometimes less communication is better. News of something at home that an individual cannot manage remotely can immediately and gravely affect psychological well-being. The result can be distraction, disengagement, an inability to progress, and a threat to the performance of the organization.

Preparing To Return
The front-of-mind excitement associated with preparing to return home can mask the fact that it can have an adverse effect on psychological well-being. An individual or their perceptions may not be the same as when they left home. Family and friends may also have changed—even in a short period. Going home to continue as before may not be possible, and acknowledging this in advance is a way of managing expectations and the risk of disappointment.

A period of decompression or a staged return can facilitate a soft landing (e.g., soldiers returning home from a conflict zone via a peaceful base where they can wash, relax, and enjoy leisure time as a way of unwinding in a more normal environment before going home).

Being Back
Getting home can involve little more than a flight, but it can take much longer to feel back at home psychologically. To mitigate this potential disconnection between being back and feeling back, time for adjustment is important. After a longer period away, a welcome home celebration can have a better effect on psychological well-being if it takes place after the traveler has had time to feel back home again.

Future Research
The next step for the researchers is to analyze people in the three target environments—military, universities, and the oil and gas industry. The analyses will begin with researchers asking people how they assess their own psychological well-being and then asking them what they do to maintain that well-being while away from home.

“So, rather than present the model to them and ask them if they do it, we’re going to ask, ‘What are the things you do?’ We can then take those practices and inputs and apply them back to the model and refine it a little bit more,” Seaton said. That research is expected to be conducted by King’s College London and Cardiff University.

The full paper can be downloaded from the OnePetro online library here.

Read more about Sodexo here.

Littler via Mondaq | 16 April 2015

OSHA’s New Target For SVEP: Oil And Gas Well Drilling Operations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) isn’t exactly a new sheriff in town when it comes to the oil and gas industry. Over the past few years, OSHA has relied on several regional emphasis programs for increased scrutiny of this industry.

However, in February, OSHA’s Enforcement Director, Tom Galassi announced a new policy, whereby oil and gas well drilling, well operations, and support work are designated “high-hazard” for the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). According to OSHA, the new policy is justified because over the past 2 decades, the oil and gas industry has had a fatality rate at least five times greater than the national average for all industries.

Over a week after OSHA’s initial announcement, OSHA publicly released a February 2015 memorandum delineating more details regarding its new policy. The policy, which authorizes the addition of “upstream oil and gas hazards” to the list of High-Emphasis Hazards in SVEP, is effective for any citations that are issued on or after 11 February 2015, the date of the memorandum.

Under the new policy, a nonfatality inspection in which OSHA finds two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices (or any combination of these violations/notices), based on high gravity serious violations related to upstream oil and gas activities, will now be considered a severe violator enforcement case.

OilOnline | 13 April 2015

Tips To Tackle and Prevent Employee Burnout

As many oil and gas companies are doing more with less and even reducing headcount, it is common to see employees getting overwhelmed, stressed, and burned out in their jobs. While grateful to have a job, these employees could be on the path to “burnout,” with employers running the risk of impacted performance, decreased employee engagement, and increased turnover.

To compound this issue, managers tend to overload employees who are most competent. This is even more of an issue in a small to mid-sized company. Knowing this reality, how do employers buffer high-performing employees from the burnout factor?

Here are some tips to slow down the burnout rate:

  • Have a “stay conversation.” Managers need to identify key contributors and schedule time to discuss their goals, needs, and concerns. Block out time to let them know how valuable they are and how they fit into the organization going forward.
  • Avoid duplication of effort. A lack of clear procedures or processes in some companies leads to many employees trying to accomplish the same tasks. Make sure everyone is on the same page and clear about their roles and responsibilities.
  • Redistribute the work. If you have a key employee who is overbooked, look for ways to redistribute some of the less critical workload. Could another employee take it on to learn and develop from it?

imorph | 31 March 2015

Training Specialist Launches Pioneering Offshore Health Program

Imorph, the Aberdeen-based specialist training and change management provider, has launched Gloe, an innovative training program based at tackling the issues behind the growing problem of obesity facing the nation and the offshore industry.

It is a sensitive issue, which regularly hits the headlines. The Step Change Helicopter Safety Steering Group recognizes that, while this issue is not exclusive to the offshore industry, the sector does have a duty to ensure it sets workers up to succeed in the offshore environment, with health and well-being as crucial factors.

It is clear that, while operators are aware of this issue and do work to ensure that nutrition programs based on low-calorie and low-fat eating are available offshore, statistics and recent news suggest that, as with most weight-reducing measures, these measures just are not working.

Addressing the full spectrum of challenges associated with changes to diet and lifestyle, Gloe aims to improve both the health and consequent work output of offshore personnel—whatever their size—by creating a sustainable health program, developed by Imorph’s behavioral change experts, in conjunction with nutrition consultant Chris Fenn.

Caroline Hughes, director at Imorph, is enthusiastic about the fundamental changes the course can bring to the industry and beyond. “Gloe is a really exciting development for the oil and gas industry, as it’s the first course truly aimed at creating a more energized, more productive, and generally healthier workforce, which brings almost immediate health and cost benefits to the companies who undertake the training,” she said.

“It’s not just about weight loss,” Hughes added. “And it’s definitely not a lecture. It’s about practical adjustments to existing routines, and, in an industry so driven by routine, those changes are almost impossible to sustain without the knowledge and behavioral change support Gloe offers.”

With 25 years of experience, Chris Fenn understands the benefits nutrition and habit can have upon a work force. “Obesity is linked with well-known health risks and can significantly reduce quality of life and work,” she said. “It can result in the psychological challenges of depression, stress, and self-consciousness, all of which can affect interpersonal relationships, performance, and attendance at work.”

“At this crucial time for the oil and gas industry, a healthy work force performing at its optimum level is one of its greatest assets,” Fenn said.

Government of British Columbia | 27 March 2015

British Columbia Releases Oil and Gas Human Health Study

The Canadian province of British Columbia publicly released the Northeast Oil and Gas Human Health Risk Assessment Study on 26 March, announced Health Minister Terry Lake.

“Our government is committed to ensuring that the health of British Columbians is protected as we explore opportunities for economic and job growth throughout the province,” Lake said. “That is why we undertook this comprehensive study, and I am pleased to release the full report today. After careful review and analysis, the study found that the risk to human health from emissions from oil and gas activities in the Northeast remains low.”

Phase 2 of the risk assessment began in November 2012 and included a scientific literature review, a screening level risk assessment, a detailed human health risk assessment, a review of the current regulatory framework, and recommendations. Its goals were to assess the health risks associated with oil and gas activity in northeastern British Columbia and, where appropriate, to provide recommendations to fill knowledge gaps and manage risks. The Phase 2 report was presented to government in November 2014.

The human health risk assessment found there is a low probability of adverse health effects from exposures to contaminants related to current oil and gas activities. It was compiled following the standards and scientific processes recognized by Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.