Safety

Focus Sharpens on Chemical Risk Assessment

Chemical risk assessment is an evolving element in the health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility sector of the exploration and production (E&P)  industry. On 24–25 February 2015, the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) will hold its first workshop on chemical risk. The workshop, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, will discuss chemical risk related to human health and the environment within the E&P industry.

Read more about the workshop here.
Register for the workshop here.

Kristin M. Koblis is the global manager of environment, health, and safety (EHS) strategic planning for Noble Energy. At an October meeting of the Society of Petroleum Engineer’s (SPE) Gulf Coast Section Health, Safety, and Environment Study Group, she presented her company’s screening process for chemical risk assessment.

Q: Why is the risk-screening process you outlined in your paper and presentation necessary?

A: Noble Energy is committed to protecting human health and the environment. Communities express their concerns of the chemicals the industry is utilizing and the potential for adverse health. Developing a risk assessment approach that factors in hazard and exposure was very important to us. In addition, there are potential regulatory changes to the Toxic Substance Control Act regarding chemical hazard, exposure, and risk. Noble Energy wants to be a leader in evaluating chemical risk.

Q: What are the objectives of the screening process?

A: The process will allow Noble Energy to identify chemicals where no additional concern is warranted and to also identify the chemicals where additional risk characterization and management may be needed. It is also specific to Noble Energy operations and identifies the field-specific exposure likelihood. We felt it was imperative to ensure that the process evaluates not only the potential human health and environmental hazards but also the potential for people or ecological receptors to be exposed to the chemicals in the products. Chemical risk is based on both the chemical’s inherent hazard to human or ecological receptors and the potential for such receptors to be exposed to the chemical throughout the life cycle of the chemical.

Q: How is the risk screening conducted?

A: The process was developed to be consistent with existing publically available approaches, including the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) methods for the Toxic Substances Control Act Work Plan Chemicals, which rely heavily on both the EPA’s Design for the Environment and the UN Globally Harmonized System (GHS). Each chemical in a product was assessed in terms of hazard, persistence, and bioaccumulation. The parameters for hazard followed GHS for human and environmental hazards. Human health and environmental hazard scores, as well as persistence and bioaccumulation scores (each ranging from 1 to 3), were calculated for each chemical in a product.

Then, each chemical in a product was scored (each ranging from 1 to 3) for relative risk. The key element of this step is the exposure assessment, which allowed an evaluation of risk by scoring the potential for exposure to the product using four factors. The four exposure factors included the amount of the product used, the number of locations where the product is used, the potential for human exposure, and the potential for exposure of ecological receptors to the product.

Separate, overall human health and overall environmental risk scores (each ranging from 1 to 3 for low, 4 to 6 for medium, and 7 to 9 for high) were calculated for each chemical, incorporating hazard, persistence and bioaccumulation, and exposure scores.

Q: What are the challenges to implementing the screening process?

A: One of the biggest challenges is obtaining sufficient data to conduct the scoring. Although we encountered confidential business information (CBI), it was not as frequent as discussed in the media. Noble Energy occasionally encountered CBI data. For some products, there will be both product level data and chemical level data for the constituents that are contained within the product. Where both product level and chemical level data are available, a strategy was developed to guide the selection of one or the other source of information to characterize the hazard of the product. Product-level testing data, when available, are typically limited to specific hazard-related endpoints. Although persistence and bioaccumulation data might also be available for a product, such data rarely, if ever, exist.

Efforts were made to find hazard data that would support scoring of all human and environmental parameters for a given chemical; however, in some cases, data were not available for all parameters. In these instances, it was assumed that the practice of adopting the highest human hazard score and highest environmental hazard score available for the parameters that could be scored was sufficiently conservative to characterize the hazard of the chemicals in a product.

For some of the chemicals, no hazard information was available or hazard information was available only to characterize human health or environmental hazard, but not both. Additional discussions with both service companies and chemical manufacturers is needed to obtain additional information.

Q: What is chemical stewardship and how does it fit in the scope of safety in the E&P industry?

A: Chemical stewardship ensures that EHS protection is an integral part of the chemical lifecycle. It is a continued commitment to assessing and mitigating chemical-related risks to both human health and the environment. The development and understanding of the risk scoring involves partnerships with the company’s drilling, operations, and supply chain departments. This ensures that all groups are integrating human health and environmental risk perspectives into chemical use.

Q: How does chemical stewardship apply to social responsibility in the E&P industry, and how will the screening process affect that?

A: Although there are no regulatory requirements for conducting the chemical risk scoring, Noble Energy wanted to ensure we are going beyond any regulatory compliance requirements. The process ensures that protection to both human health and the environment are factored into the chemical uses decisions, thus ensuring that Noble energy is conducting its operations in a responsible manner.

Major HSE Training Program Starts in Iraq

Source: Rigzone | 17 December 2014

Royal Dutch Shell and international oil and gas training standards body OPITO have teamed up to train up to 15,000 Iraqi energy industry workers to deal safely with the potential hazards of hydrogen sulphide.

Shell and OPITO aim to ensure that the workers are trained to the globally recognized hydrogen sulphide standard. A corrosive and hazardous gas, hydrogen sulphide occurs in the production of oil and gas fields that have a high content of this gas in their reservoirs.

The initiative is the first industry-led program to be rolled out across Iraq since OPITO signed an agreement with the country’s Ministry of Oil to help develop its local workforce and give it the necessary skills and training to develop its hydrocarbon resources.

OSHA Forms Alliance To Protect Oil and Gas Workers

Source: OSHA | 15 December 2014

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  signed a two-year alliance with the National Service, Transmission, Exploration, and Production Safety Network and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among workers in the exploration and production sector of the oil and gas industry.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels signed the agreement before his keynote address at the Oil & Gas Safety and Health Conference in Houston, where more than 2,100 industry representatives, safety and health organizations, and educators gathered to collaborate on ways to improve safety in the oil and gas industry.

“Too many oil and gas industry workers are being hurt or killed on the job,” Michaels said. “These tragedies are preventable, and we need to work together to address hazards, prevent injuries, and save lives.”

The rapid growth of employment in this industry has been coupled with an increase in worker fatalities. In 2013, 112 workers were killed in the oil and gas industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most fatalities occurred among workers with less than 1 year on the job. Workers face a number of hazards, such as motor vehicle crashes, fires and explosions, electrocution, and exposure to respirable silica.

Through the alliance, the participants will develop fact sheets and videos on the leading causes of fatalities in oil and gas exploration and production, provide OSHA materials and training resources for employers and workers, and support oil and gas safety stand-downs.

Column: Safety Leadership Coaching—Are We Coaching the Right Things?

Source: Safety Built-In | 15 December 2015

“Coaching safety.” That’s a mouthful. We often think we know what it entails without realizing what it is we’re trying to coach. For instance, are we doing safety coaching or safety leadership coaching? There’s a difference. Are we coaching safety performance or safety leadership performance? Again, there’s a difference. One has to do with reinforcing compliance; the other has to do with reinforcing safety culture.

We’ll get in to these differences as we move through this series. But for now, there’s an even more fundamental issue to consider; namely, ensuring that what we are coaching is actually coachable.

Poetry at Work: An Engineer’s Passion for Safety Inspires Industry

Source: Oil and Gas Facilities | 2 December 2014

In the August Oil and Gas Facilities, I wrote about the inherency of poetry in our work and how it helps define who we are. Now, I share a remarkable example of poetry at work in the mind and heart of an engineer and how it resonated with people and helped to change an industry.

Harold Corbett, a chemical engineer who was then a senior vice president at Monsanto, stood in front of 1,500 chemical engineers at a 1988 Institution of Chemical Engineers/ American Institute of Chemical Engineers meeting in London. He was there to speak about the public’s increasingly negative perceptions of the chemical industry and what the industry and chemical engineers had to do to address those perceptions. And he had to tell them the public was right.

Report: New Details, Lessons Learned From Macondo

Source: SPE | 2 December 2014

Introducing his analysis on the Macondo incident in the US Gulf of Mexico (GOM), Stan Christman quoted, “Complex systems almost always fail in complex ways.” The line came from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board’s report of the space shuttle Columbia explosion in 2003, but it could easily describe the explosion and resultant spill that devastated the GOM in 2010.

In a presentation hosted by the SPE Flow Assurance Technical Section, Christman, a member of the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), outlined the failures of barriers and tests, and the problems within the Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer (BOP) system that led to the accident. The findings were the result of a 4-year investigation conducted by the CSB, which released its report in June. The federal independent agency had access to the full set of test data in real time, some of which were unavailable at the time of the publications of other reports on Macondo.

Column: Is the US Energy Infrastructure Safe?

Source: Rigzone | 28 November 2014

First, the good news regarding energy transportation in the United States: About 99.5% of all material transported by either railroad cars or pipelines reaches its destination. However, the accident rate is still too high, and it is even up slightly for gas liquids, even when adjusted for volumes and miles traveled. And most pipeline incidents are happening on new pipeline systems, not older ones, according to speakers at a recent Energy Symposium hosted by the University of Houston.

In recent years, with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in unconventional shale formations becoming the new norm, production levels for crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids have shot up, leaving the industry racing in the wake to build an infrastructure to catch up.

Column: The Energy/Attitude Dynamic in Safety Culture Development

Source: Safety Built-In | 18 November 2014

“No one wants to work in an unsafe environment, right? Everyone wants to go home the same way they came in to work. So, why is it so hard to get people to get with the program?”

These questions were posed to me by an HSE professional tasked with safety culture development in his organization. As I thought about it, I was reminded of a model created by my partner, Claude Lineberry.

We were consulting partners, working to help companies introduce strategic change. Our clients had well-founded strategies and programs, and the end results were going to make the companies more effective and even better places to work. Yet, in addition to the strong support we were getting, there was still halfhearted acceptance and outright resistance.

Claude thought about the people who face change and realized that how they dealt with it depended upon their attitude about the change and the amount of energy they were willing to invest in that attitude. Based on that, he developed the Energy Investment Model to help guide organizations in dealing effectively with stakeholders when planning change or when undertaking safety culture development.

Column: How Much Does Poor Safety Communication Cost Organizations?

Source: Digicast | 13 November 2014

According to a study by Siemens Enterprise Communications, a business with 100 employees spends an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. This translates to an annual cost of USD 528,443 (even higher for larger companies).

Where there are communication barriers, because of people misunderstanding information, there are also productivity losses. The same study found that the cumulative cost per worker per year is USD 26,041 just from communication barriers alone.

Being a clear communicator is crucial to being a highly effective safety leader. But it’s not just about being clear. It’s also about engaging others with your safety communication.

In fact, the number one return on investment for internal communication is engagement.

Poor engagement levels have a crippling effect on safety performance in organizations. Research by Towers Watson found that companies who rate highly for effectiveness were 4.5 times more likely to report high employee engagement than other firms.

Engaged employees are

  • Five times less likely to have a safety incident
  • Seven time less likely to a have a lost-time incident

Drilling’s Safety Exemptions and How They Got There

Source: E&E News | 4 November 2014

In 1983, troubled by the high death rate in the oil field, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set out to impose a set of worker safety rules on drilling companies.

The effort backfired. As OSHA officials ushered the proposal through the process, they agreed to exempt drilling from other new rules on noise protection, machine safety, and preventing explosions. Those topics, they said, would be covered in the pending oil and gas rulebook.

But, when that proposal died, drilling companies wound up exempt from a suite of basic worker protections.

“It’s mind-boggling to me how many safety standards they’re exempt from,” said Dennis Schmitz, a trainer who leads the MonDaks Safety Network, a group of safety officials from companies in the Bakken Shale region. “What’s the culture that creates?”

In the 30 years since the drilling regulations were proposed, the industry’s death rate regularly has been among the highest in the United States. Current and former OSHA officials say the exemptions and the absence of the drilling regulations left safety inspectors with fewer tools to police an industry heavy with “unique hazards.”

Wyoming Sees Decline in Oil Worker Deaths

Source: Marketplace | 22 October 2014

For more than a decade, Wyoming has been among the most dangerous places in the nation for workers. Deaths peaked in the late 2000s, at the height of the state’s natural gas drilling frenzy. In response, task forces were convened and safety alliances were formed to address what was billed as a problem with Wyoming’s “culture of safety.” The number of deaths has fallen in recent years, but has the safety culture changed, or did the drilling rigs just move on?

To help answer that question, reporter Stephanie Joyce recently visited former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal in the woodshop at his house in Cheyenne.

According to the former governor, there wasn’t a specific incident or moment that made him decide to address workplace safety, but it was pretty clear that it needed addressing. In the first week of 2009, three oil and gas workers died in Wyoming in separate accidents. One was crushed by a truck, another suffered a fatal head injury on a rig, and yet another rolled his car after leaving the drillsite. The tricky part, Freudenthal said, was figuring out what to do. “How do you change the way we deal with safety in general in a place like Wyoming?” he asked.

Column: Who Really Owns Safety?

Source: ProAct Safety | 15 October 2014

If safety is more important than production, why does safety report up through Legal, Human Resources, or Production rather than production reporting up through the company’s No. 1 priority? If safety is so important, how many CEOs come from the safety department? Safety is a core value, and most organizations employ safety managers. But, if trust and honesty are also common corporate values, where are the trust and honesty managers? The answer lies with the uncomfortable truth: reality.

Not intending to sound flippant, and recognizing the importance of process, passion, and the technical and legal reasons for safety professionals, who “owns” safety is an important issue to be analyzed if excellence is the goal.