KUOW | 10 February 2015

Refinery Workers Strike for Safety at Site of Deadly Anacortes Explosion

About 200 workers at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington, are on strike. They’ve had a 24-hour picket line at the plant’s main gate for more than a week.

Steelworkers at nine oil refineries, which produce about one-tenth of the nation’s gasoline, are striking.

Like many labor disputes, this one includes a push for higher wages, but the United Steel Workers say they’re more concerned about their safety on the job.

“Anybody’ll tell you, we make a decent living,” said Tesoro-Anacortes steelworker Ryan Anderson. “What’s important to us is establishing safe staffing at these plants, getting our manpower up to a level that we can feel safe, that our communities feel safe.”

Anacortes suffered Washington’s worst industrial accident of the past half-century in April 2010 when a fireball erupted at the Tesoro plant. Seven workers died; the explosion rocked houses miles away in residential areas of Anacortes.

“Basically, it’s always in the back of our minds that something could happen,” Anderson said.

The United States has a serious refinery accident about once every three days, according to the US Chemical Safety Board.

HSE Press Journal | 3 February 2015

Oil Spill Cleanup Hazards

Oil is pouring from a ruptured pipeline beneath the ocean, and the oil company is hiring as many people as possible, including Paul, to try to contain and clean up the oil spill. Once Paul and the other new-hires finished filling out the new-hire paperwork, their new boss quickly went over safety training with the group. The training consisted of a brief review of marine oil spill response, which lasted about an hour. Their supervisor spent another hour covering marine vessel safety. Paul and the new-hires were going to serve on marine vessels and vessels of opportunity (VOO) to deploy and recover booms. After the brief safety training review, Paul’s supervisor assigned him to a vessel and he started working. After working on the vessel for 4 hours, Paul was beginning to get tired and overheated. It was a very hot day and everyone was working hard to clean up the oil spill and were losing track of time. No one had taken a break.

Crews uncovered an oily boom, and Paul’s boss asked him to help pressure wash it. While doing this, he started to feel light-headed. He started to lose consciousness and slipped. Paul hit his head and fell over the side of the ship and into the ocean. It took 5 minutes for the crew to realize what happened and to pull Paul back on board. Paul sustained a concussion and neck injury and was taken to the hospital for overnight observation. Fortunately, Paul had his life jacket on, which was the only thing that saved his life.

Plant Services | 3 February 2015

Don’t Sacrifice Safety for Productivity

People are often tempted to make do with available tools and risk bodily injury for the sake of saving time and energy. This temptation applies to nearly all tools and equipment, including those designed to provide access to elevated work heights. The risk of falls from elevated working heights is very real. According to Liberty Mutual’s 2013 Workplace Safety Index, these types of incidents ranked as the fourth leading cause of workplace injuries, and they led to USD 4.9 billion in direct costs to businesses in 2011.

This is where safety on ladders, scaffolding and low-level access lifts comes in.

NBC News | 28 January 2015

Oil Train Spills Hit Record Level in 2014

American oil trains spilled crude oil more often in 2014 than in any year since the federal government began collecting data on such incidents in 1975, an NBC News analysis shows.

The record number of spills sparked a fireball in Virginia, polluted groundwater in Colorado, and destroyed a building in Pennsylvania, causing at least USD 5 million in damages and the loss of 57,000 gallons of crude oil.

By volume, that is dramatically less crude than trains spilled in 2013, when major derailments in Alabama and North Dakota leached a record 1.4 million gallons—more than was lost in the prior 40 years combined. But, by frequency of spills, 2014 set a new high with 141 “unintentional releases,” according to data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). By comparison, between 1975 and 2012, US railroads averaged just 25 spills a year.

The vast majority of the incidents occurred while the trains were “in transit,” in the language of regulators, rumbling along a network of tracks that pass by homes and through downtowns. They included three major derailments and seven incidents classified as “serious” because they involved a fire, evacuation, or spill of more than 120 gallons. That is up from five serious incidents in 2013, the data shows.

“They’ve got accidents waiting to happen,” said Larry Mann, the principal author of the landmark Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970. “Back in 1991, I said, ‘One day a community is going to get wiped out by a freight train. Well, in 2013 that happened, and, unless something changes, it’s going to happen again.”

Mann was referring to the Lac-Mégantic disaster, a deadly derailment in Quebec just miles from the Maine border. A 72-car oil train rolled downhill and exploded on 6 July 2013, killing 47 people and destroying most of the town.

American Institute of Chemical Engineers | 28 January 2015

Recommendations for Establishing Process Safety Investigation Boards

Global population growth and the associated growth in the production of goods and services provided by high-hazard process industries require increasingly stronger safety systems that reduce the potential for catastrophic failures. One contribution toward enhancing safety is to expand the number of national Process Safety Investigation Boards (PSIBs). As recent experience has shown, PSIBs can investigate catastrophic events resulting in severe damages, identify their circumstances and causes, recommend specific ways to prevent their recurrence, communicate with audiences vulnerable to experiencing similar incidents, and coordinate with other relevant governmental agencies and the private sector to strengthen the policies and practice of process safety. A knowledgeable, skilled, diverse board selected by high-level, public officials and subject to limited terms, can help ensure performance and accountability for the PSIB and its more permanent, hired expert staff who establish and maintain the core technical competencies needed to fulfill the PSIB’s functions.

EHS Journal | 12 January 2015

US Airlines Required To Develop Safety Management Systems Under New Rule

Most US commercial airlines will be required to have formal Safety Management Systems (SMS) in place by 2018, according to a new final rule issued by the US Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on 7 January 2015, requires each air carrier operating under 14 CFR, Part 121, to develop and implement an SMS to improve the safety of its aviation-related activities. The SMS is intended to be a comprehensive, process-oriented approach to managing safety.

Required SMS elements include

  • An organizationwide safety policy
  • Formal methods for identifying hazards
  • Procedures for controlling and continually assessing risk and safety performance
  • Promotion of a safety culture

Select International | 12 January 2015

Column: The 10 Most Common Safety Blind Spots

Lately, I’ve been spending entirely too much time perusing the many pages of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, and I came across a list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards following OSHA worksite inspections for the 2014 fiscal year.

What I find most useful about this list is that it highlights employees’ most common safety blind spots, which informs safety leaders of their greatest opportunities to reduce safety incident rates. Far too many workplace injuries and deaths are preventable, so to better understand why they continue to happen let’s take a quick look at the specific blind spots associated with these safety standards.

1. Fall protection
2. Hazard communication
3. Scaffolding
4. Respiratory protection
5. Powered industrial trucks
6. Lockout/tagout
7. Ladders
8. Electrical, wiring methods
9. Machine guarding
10. Electrical, general requirements

Oilpro | 12 January 2015

Competence Is Key—Lloyd’s Register Energy Raises the Standard for Oil and Gas Training

The engine of the global oil and gas industry consists of the drilling operations that enable the extraction of the hydrocarbons that fuel the world economy.

Thus, the safe and efficient execution of these operations is essential. Lloyd’s Register Energy-Drilling offers the training and competency assessments that aid companies in being compliant with the many regulations and safety standards that are applicable throughout the global industry.

Drilling operations can be interrupted by the malfunction of systems or equipment or the lack of competence of drilling personnel. Each of these challenges are frequently preventable. Through in-depth training and competence assessments, Lloyd’s Register Energy-Drilling seeks to ensure that such preventable instances are rare and that drilling operations proceed safely and efficiently.

Eric Flynn and Anthony Scott, Lloyd’s Register Energy-Drilling global marketing manager and global training manager, respectively, discuss the issues of training and competency in the context of the progress being made in a company that has been on 90% of the rigs in the world.

ProAct Safety | 9 January 2015

Column: Who Should Implement Behavior-Based Safety?

Would you purchase a vehicle with the hood welded shut? Probably not, but this analogy precisely represents how organizations tend to invest in behavior-based safety (BBS).

When a company has determined it is ready for a behavioral approach to injury prevention, who should lead the implementations: external or internal consultants? As an expert in BBS, I believe organizations should look first at internal capabilities.

After auditing and enhancing hundreds of existing BBS processes in every major industry, one unfortunate truth cannot be refuted—organizations that do not attempt to internalize the expertise necessary for long-term BBS success in the beginning rarely do so later on. When the most important information to the process is largely externalized, a consultant must remain on-call, which is not the healthiest way to lead a major improvement in any area of operations. The stickiest of culture changes are led from within.

BBS has lasted as a tool to both enhance safety culture and address and understand what influences discretionary injury-prevention behaviors for several decades. While it certainly isn’t the most advanced safety excellence approach, there is a lot to it. However, it does not require one to become an amateur psychologist, sociologist or behavioral scientist to be successful.

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.

Rigzone | 17 December 2014

Major HSE Training Program Starts in Iraq

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.