Monitoring System Makes Confined Spaces Safer

Confined spaces are areas that have limited means for entry or exit and are not designed for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces include pipelines, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, and ductwork. A number of workers are injured or killed each year while working in confined spaces, and an estimated 60% of the fatalities reported were would-be rescuers.

Ensuring safety within confined spaces is one of the more challenging aspects of maintenance projects. This considerable level of danger calls for extra safety measures, such as constant monitoring and record keeping of confined-space work by an attendant positioned at the opening. However, the duties of the attendant are restricted to the outside of the vessel. So how are activities conducted within the confined space actively monitored?

The answer lies in leveraging technology. United Safety recently launched the TeQ Shield, a confined-space monitoring solution, at the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary on 9 June 2015.

From the TeQ Shield command center, the safety operator has continuous awareness of all confined-space work.

From the TeQ Shield command center, the safety operator has continuous awareness of all confined-space work.

One of the key benefits of the TeQ Shield is the ability to monitor the inside of a confined space remotely. From the command center, the safety operator has continuous awareness of all confined-space work. He analyzes visual input of work being performed and the surroundings, monitors gas levels, controls worker access information, and can communicate with personnel outside and inside the vessels. In the event of an emergency, he is able to convey valuable information to the rescue team before its arrival.

“With the TeQ Shield, the safety operator can rely on a solution that combines gas detection, video surveillance, two-way communication, access control, and a command center to effectively monitor confined spaces, improving safety without delaying projects or increasing costs,” said Sher Alizander, technical service manager for United Safety.

The TeQ Shield has a host of features. Cameras with day and night vision installed outside and inside vessels allow for clear visibility in a wide array of environmental conditions. Video is recorded along with gas-detection logs. The data stored can be used in training or investigations.

Two-way communication—outside and inside of the confined space—keeps personnel in constant contact with the command center. It can be used to answer questions of access control, to correct safety practices remotely, or to speak with personnel during emergencies.

The TeQ Shield is also equipped with continuous real-time gas detection. If a toxic atmosphere is detected, audible and visual alarms ensure proper evacuation. Additionally, an access-control feature uses site badges to allow only authorized individuals to enter a confined space. This enables an accurate count of who is present in the space.

The TeQ service line can be extended to cover a wide range of applications, including body cameras, monitoring of employee wellbeing, and facility-access control. The possibilities and applications will only grow as the technology evolves.

“By combining technology with safety expertise, we redefine confined-space work safety while improving the overall productivity of the event,” said Tim Wallace, executive vice president–western hemisphere for United Safety.

Read more about TeQ Shield here.

EHS Journal | 26 May 2015

Column: Dealing With Difficult, Distracting, and Disruptive Auditees

We’ve all read self-help books that describe how to deal with difficult people and handle difficult situations in the workplace. This article examines some of the more difficult people the author has encountered during environmental, health, and safety audits and presents options for handling them.

Type One: The Avoider

  • Feigns ignorance whenever asked an important or controversial question
  • Tries to delegate responsibility for answering questions to others
  • Perpetually late for opening and daily meetings
  • Uses the phrase, “Me, you mean me?”

Type Two: The Parrot 

  • Constantly reports things he heard as gospel without checking to ensure that the statements were true
  • Quickly retracts statements or corrects assertions if important colleagues or managers disagree
  • Echoes responses made by others without fully understanding the meaning of the answer or providing relevant additional information
  • Likes to recite irrelevant facts and figures
  • Can act as a poseur at times by pontificating about the “old times” and his “experience”

Type Three: The Tattler

  • Blames his shortcomings on others
  • Quickly points out the mistakes of colleagues and contractors and makes a big deal out of these deficiencies
  • Constantly runs to management with complaints and “critical issues” that aren’t getting proper attention
  • Undermines the audit process by complaining about auditor behavior, auditor comments, and unjust findings
  • Often says “I told you so”

Type Four: The Avenger

  • Has an irrational belief that his worth as a human being is tied to the number of audit findings
  • Continues to argue “unjust” findings from the last three audits conducted at the facility
  • Challenges all new findings and is willing to fight to the death to keep them out of the audit report
  • Actively seeks to delay or derail the audit by withholding information, engaging in prolonged discussions and arguments, and interrupting the auditors with new information about closed issues
  • Warns his direct reports that they better not have any findings
  • Feels that audits have winners and losers and embarrassing the audit team is a key to victory

The Bakken Magazine | 14 May 2014

Unmanned Aircraft Have Great Potential for Oil and Gas Industry

The statistics paint a grim picture of the risks involved in using manned aircraft to inspect oil and gas pipelines.

Speaking on a panel at Unmanned Systems 2015 in Atlanta, Joseph Bernard, managing director of Bernard Microsystems in London, noted that, for every million flight hours, the death rate for commercial airlines is 0.9 while the death rate for pipeline inspections in the oil and gas industry is 43.6.

“When I send an employee out to fly, I’m knowingly putting someone in the company at risk,” Bernard said. “The way to reduce that is essentially to start using unmanned aircraft. You’re not reducing the number of staff. You’re simply relocating the pilot from the low-flying aircraft to a ground station.”

Bernard was one of five speakers on a panel at the annual conference and trade show hosted by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. They discussed emerging commercial markets for unmanned aerial systems in the oil and gas industry.

Health & Safety Middle East | 13 May 2015

Summiting Safety: Fall Arrest vs. Fall Restraint

The difference between fall arrest and fall restraint may sound like little more than a technicality, but the reality is so much more. Selecting one of these systems will leave long-lasting legacies for the worker, the safety professional, and even their accountant.

Hierarchy of Control for Falls
The hierarchy of controls for safe work at height is different to the everyday hierarchy used for other hazards. Uniquely, it mandates the process for selecting the most appropriate means of eliminating hazards on site.

While it has all the color and excitement befitting its legislative status, the falls hierarchy is well worth reading because it subtly takes into account the real-life human factors and cost considerations that matter.

While the hierarchy of control is to be applied to work practices using temporary and permanent equipment and procedures, this article deals primarily with permanent fall prevention equipment such as anchorage points, static lines, platforms, walkways, and catwalks.

Safety Built-In | 7 May 2015

Column: What Leaders Do To Drive Safety-Culture Change

Leading a safety culture is, first and foremost, an exercise in managing change. And, as with any change-management initiative, if it’s not guided by a solid plan, dogged persistence, tenacity, fearlessness, persuasion, assertiveness, and an understanding of how people may respond to that change, it’s not likely to go well.

If there’s one thing a change agent learns very quickly, it’s that the most difficult part about change is not the process, and it’s not the new program or initiative that you’re tasked with driving.

The most difficult part about change is the people you have to persuade.

Anatomy of an Incident | 29 April 2015

Column: Focusing on the Wrong Safety Metrics

Looking at the 2005 Texas City refinery fire with the benefit of nearly 10 years of reflection and much discussion of what was going on at the facility, it is difficult to imagine how anybody working there could have had any sense of personal security. Those individuals who spend most of their waking hours surrounded by flammable and explosive products in enormous quantities must become desensitized to the ever-present danger or they would not be able to walk through the gate to begin a shift. Hopefully, rational individuals find a way to let their knowledge of the danger inform their actions and motivate them to work safely. BP had created a safety culture that stressed behavioral issues but did not dedicate the same resources to process safety. Perhaps to many of the 1,800 employees and 800 contractors on the site, the notion of behavioral safety was enough to keep them coming to work every day.

Investigations after the fire on 23 March 2005 offered numerous citations of safety culture failures at the company’s corporate level, along with safety management failures at its refineries in general and Texas City in particular.

Oil and Gas UK | 29 April 2015

UK Oil and Gas Industry Safety Awards Winners Announced

The fifth UK Oil and Gas Industry Safety Awards celebrated people and companies striving to ensure North Sea oil and gas operations are as safe as they can be at a ceremony on 29 April in Aberdeen.

The awards, jointly organized by Oil and Gas UK and Step Change in Safety, consisted of six categories: Safety Leadership, Safety Representative of the Year, Innovation in Safety, Workforce Engagement, Occupational Health and Hygiene, and Sharing and Learning.

Robert Paterson, health and safety director at Oil and Gas UK, said, “We were really impressed with the level and standard of entries to our awards. The innovative approaches being taken by winners to ensure high standards of safety, as well as the measures under way to further raise awareness to the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, really are to be applauded.”

Oil and Gas UK is a representative organization for the UK offshore oil and gas industry. Its more than 500 members are companies licensed by the government to explore for and produce oil and gas in UK waters and those in the industry’s supply chain. Step Change in Safety, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to make the UK the safest oil province in the world, has 137 members representing operators, contractors, trade unions, regulators, and the onshore and offshore workforce.

The winners of the 2015 awards are

Safety Leadership—Vic Retalic, HSE and security manager, Premier Oil

Judges recognized Retalic’s creative approach to communicating health and safety, which included drawing on the expertise of other industries to look at concerns from a different perspective and using a cartoonist to capture meeting minutes as a 12-ft-long picture.

Safety Representative of the Year—Karen McCombie, offshore support planner and helicopter administrative assistant, Sodexo

The judges said McCombie has worked tirelessly to promote safety awareness on the Claymore platform, to increase participation at quarterly meetings, and to encourage Sodexo management to put safety at the top of the boardroom agenda.

Innovation in Safety—BG Group and Amec Foster Wheeler

BG Group and Amec Foster Wheeler have jointly delivered an industry first by developing a new technique for removing caissons, the pillars underpinning many North Sea platforms. The process holds promise for the future; BG Group plans to use this technology for the removal of similar caissons on other North Sea assets.

Workforce Engagement—The Bruce Platform Team, BP

BP’s Bruce Offshore Platform Team transformed its safety performance through an ambitious improvement program involving a new approach to communication and a focus on a new, consistent process.

Occupational Health and Hygiene—Lesley Officer, human resources manager, Rowan Drilling UK

Officer was involved in Rowan Drilling UK’s Wellness program to encourage a healthy body mass index and an active lifestyle. The total weight of participants has fallen consistently since, and Rowan’s offshore fleet became the first in the UK sector to be presented with NHS Scotland’s Healthy Living Award.

Sharing and Learning—Neil Clark, chief executive officer, IHF

Human factors are thought to account for 80% of all accidents offshore, and Clark’s commitment to raising awareness of them as a pivotal ingredient toward changing safety culture on and offshore impressed the judges. Clark has played a key role in Step Change in Safety’s steering group on competence and human factors.

Occupational Health & Safety | 23 April 2015

Column: The Other Side of the Organizational Safety Coin

You have probably heard some variation of the saying “there are two sides to every coin” more times than you can count. But have you ever applied it to organizational safety?

One side of the coin is injury prevention. Keeping workers safe is what gets most safety professionals out of bed in the morning and motivates them throughout the day. Reducing injuries and keeping people out of harm’s way is as satisfying as it is tangible, and injury statistics and lost-time incidents are tracked with regularity in corporate safety programs.

When it comes to what keeps safety professionals up at night, many times it is not just thoughts of what could go wrong, but instead how they will justify the cost of implementing safety measures and processes that are often quite expensive. The other side of the coin literally deals with the coin itself—the financial aspect of safety. And this side can feel cold and calculating.

Nobody wants to think the reason we protect people on the job is because it saves the company money—safety professionals do it because it is the right thing to do. But that does not mean safety efforts do not have very real financial implications. As we will see, money and safety performance are very closely linked, and many safety professionals do themselves a disservice when they talk about one without fully including the other in the conversation.

The link between finances and safety is not hard to see. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, the average medical cost of lost-time claims is USD 36,592. Because that number has risen every year since 1995, the cost of the medical treatment of workplace injuries is likely to continue increasing. The result is a rough equation that is as simple as it is self-evident: If you reduce the number of workplace injuries, then you potentially reduce the workers compensation premiums your company has to pay. Conversely, more claims will likely mean a higher total payout.

However, most employers are not simply handed a medical bill. Instead, medical costs, wage benefits, and other injury-related expenses are typically paid by workers compensation insurance. But a higher injury rate can lead to elevated workers compensation premiums, and that can really add up quickly for many businesses.

Hydrocarbon Processing | 20 April 2015

The True Cost of Poor Quality

Knoxville, Tennessee-based System Improvements has been in the forefront of teaching structured root-cause analysis throughout the world. System Improvements has used its proprietary software (TapRooT) for its courses and teaching endeavors over several decades. The organization has recently examined the thinking conveyed in old—if not antiquated—quality improvement (QI) language. The company observed language and performance indicators used by industry to monitor quality of output. TapRooT and similar performance software identified important flaws regarding QI programs.

QI trends
One of the biggest QI trends was the term “cost of poor quality” (COPQ) as tied with “zero defects.” Indeed, a number of COPQ financial models popped up in many Fortune 500 companies. In the safety world, there was a similar drive with the term “cost of compensation” tied with “zero injuries” and tracking OSHA-driven recordable incidents.

Yet, the focus of both safety and quality was, in each case, a lagging visible indicator. In other words: good or bad, the findings are too late.

Proactive stance
But dealing with lagging indicators is just not where reliability professionals should focus their drive and effort. While identifying and being able to comprehend the ultimate damage are vital ingredients of the process, a more productive goal would be to spot (and even avoid) problems before they develop. Designing in quality is more productive (and less expensive) than inspecting components and machines that failed because of lack of quality.

If you do not assess the quality of work, then how do you know if it is up to standards? Another important issue raised is, “Should I have to trust everybody’s work?” In the safety world, the phrase “Safety must be part of every action we do,” is often said but not necessarily followed. Industry professionals do sympathize with the present situation. However, slogans and exhortations are part of the bucket-labeled, “consultant-conceived” generalities. Too often, little or no value-adding guidance is given by clever slogans. More managers would do well to ask, “What are the goals for the safety or quality programs, and why is it necessary for the company and the employees to follow?”

Read the full story here.

ProAct Safety | 16 April 2015

Column: Safety Drivers, the First Level of Leading Indicators

The way we measure safety has contributed to our tendency to manage safety reactively. All our early safety metrics were reactive (i.e., chronologically after accidents or incidents occur). Because our metrics were essentially failure metrics, we fell into a pattern of managing safety to produce fewer failures. The only serious problem with this approach is that it reaches the limits of its effectiveness before it tells us how to prevent all accidents. As we fail less, our failure data diminishes, losing its statistical significance before our performance reaches zero accidents.

This limitation of traditional safety metrics and management has spawned a search for what are commonly called “leading indicators” of safety that will allow us to predict and prevent accidents better. Although this thinking is going in the right direction, it has not gone far enough. Ultimately, safety will have multiple metrics connected by algorithms that provide truly prescriptive metrics with which to manage safety. This set of multiple metrics will form something similar to the balanced scorecard used by strategic managers. It will have at least four major sets of metrics, the first of which might be called “safety drivers.” These are key performance indicators of our major safety efforts designed to improve organizational safety conditions and behaviors. They fall into five major categories: leadership, supervision, conditional control, onboarding practices, and knowledge/skill building.

Read the full column here.

Center for Offshore Safety | 10 April 2015

Center for Offshore Safety Report Highlights Industry’s Safety Performance

New data from industry operations and independent third-party audits reveals the US offshore oil and natural gas industry’s highest commitment to safety, according to the Center for Offshore Safety’s (COS) first performance report published on 8 April.

“America’s offshore oil and natural gas industry is even safer than before, but our goal will always be zero accidents and zero spills,” said COS Executive Director Charlie Williams. “Sharing data and lessons learned throughout the industry is an essential part of the work COS does to continually enhance safety.”

The report, based on data collected from COS members about their 2013 operations, highlights key indicators of safety performance, lessons learned from incidents, and information from the first cycle of safety audits now required by federal regulations. These audits are based on an industry standard developed by the American Petroleum Institute covering Safety and Environmental Management Systems.

Key findings of the report include:

  • On average, 96% of planned critical maintenance, inspections, and testing were performed on schedule
  • All eligible COS members successfully completed audits of their Safety and Environmental Management Systems
  • COS participating members did not suffer a single fatality or loss of well control during more than 42 million work hours in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico

Fuel Fix | 6 April 2015

Feds Say Shell’s Spill Containment System Works as Company Seeks Arctic Drilling Approval

Shell has successfully deployed its Arctic containment system in waters near Washington state as it prepares for potential drilling in the Chukchi Sea later this year.

The company didn’t officially need the test, which was conducted over several days in Puget Sound. Its emergency containment system, carried and deployed from the Arctic Challenger barge, already won certification from the American Bureau of Shipping and the US Coast Guard years ago.

But the exercises gave Shell a chance to demonstrate the equipment for Coast Guard officials and federal regulators at the Interior Department who will decide whether the company gets critical permits enabling a new round of Chukchi Sea oil exploration this summer.