Fabricating and Metalworking | 10 September 2014

Column: Safety as Sustainability

Once upon a time, sustainability was a nonissue in business because it seemed pretty simple: keep getting sales orders, deliver in a way the customer stays happy, and everything else takes care of itself. As business ramped up into our current hyper-competitive environment, supply chain managers began to carefully scrutinize what their partners were doing to ensure that their operations would be sustained and they would be around in the future.

Part of this scrutiny dealt with “sustainability” related to environmental management, the practice of making responsible business moves that do not place the short-term financial interests of the company before the long-term needs of the ecological environment. Business decisions are scrutinized to make sure they consider the physical, chemical, and biotic factors acting upon the ecological community.

Now, sustainability is increasingly being viewed through a much wider lens that scrutinizes the business footprint being left on the environment, the community, and, to some extent, global politics. Until recently, for example, few small and midsized manufacturers worried about using so-called “conflict minerals” that originate from regions of the world being torn apart by military conflicts that are, in turn, often funded by the consumption of these same minerals. Yet today, many companies are now required by law to prove that they aren’t buying conflict minerals.

What does this wider view of sustainability have to do with worker safety? Safety—or more accurately, the lack of safety—can play a profound role in the level to which a company is considered sustainable.

Offshore Energy Today | 25 August 2014

Lloyd’s Register Energy: Oil Firms Must Focus on Safety and Innovation

Lloyd’s Register Energy is challenging oil and gas companies to improve their approach to safety, performance, and technical innovation to secure the world’s changing energy supply in a sustainable way, from reservoir and refinery to beyond.

Bjørn Inge Bakken, seniort vice president of Lloyd’s Register’s consulting business said, “With a changing energy mix and increased challenges around innovative exploration and production techniques, the industry cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to safety.”

The global safety and certification organization says industry must adapt to anticipated future market and technology developments, but that it must not lose sight of safety.

“All stakeholders have a responsibility and interest to assure the safety and reliability of new, cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, to meet with increasing energy demands and government targets worldwide for reducing carbon emissions,” Bakken said.

OSHA | 19 August 2014

OSHA Education Centers Offer Specialized Safety Training for the Oil and Gas Industry

To help workers and employers better understand the hazards in the oil and gas industry, OSHA Training Institute Education Centers nationwide are offering the OSHA #5810 Hazards Recognition and Standards for On-Shore Oil and Gas Exploration and Production course. OSHA developed this course through a cooperative effort with the Rocky Mountain Education Center and industry professionals.

The oil and gas industry employs more than 450,000 workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2012 alone, more than 2,400 workers were injured and 181 more were killed, which is five times higher than the national average.

Platts | 15 August 2014

BSEE Chief Calls for New Database for US Offshore Drilling Industry

A US Interior Department official wants the offshore drilling industry to develop a comprehensive public database to help improve safety and prevent spills in federal waters.

“Currently, individual operators are collecting a lot of the data we need to properly assess risk, but that information isn’t being shared,” Brian Salerno, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said in remarks prepared for an industry forum in Houston. “Everyone is working in their own silo, collecting and using information for their own operations.”

But Salerno said offshore oil and gas operators, as well as regulators, lack “big picture data” and incidents, such as certain equipment failures, are not being shared with all operators. This lack of information-sharing is particularly needed as offshore drilling expands into new areas in the Arctic or potentially off the US East Coast.

“Wouldn’t it be incredibly valuable to have more information for these operations in new frontier areas that carry great economic potential but also carry great risk?” Salerno said in his remarks to the Ocean Energy Safety Institute forum.

Journal of Petroleum Technology | 11 August 2014

Wireless Hydrogen Sulfide Sensor Uses Nanotechnology To Improve Safety In Oil and Gas Facilities

Real-time monitoring of pollutant, toxic, and flammable gases is important for health and safety during petroleum-extraction and -distribution operations. Currently, many methods exist for detecting such gases, but most sensors suffer from slow response times, high power consumption, high costs, or an inability to operate in harsh conditions. This paper demonstrates a small, low-cost, low-power, highly sensitive nanomaterial-based gas sensor specifically targeted for the detection of hydrogen sulfide.

Current personal monitors for hydrogen sulfide are typically electrochemical-based sensors because of their low power consumption, relatively small size, and satisfactory selectivity. However, electrochemical cells typically have fairly slow response times and are prone to degradation or errors at extreme temperatures and humidity. Semiconducting-metal-oxide (SMO) sensors have fast response times and simple interface electronics and can operate in harsh conditions, making them a mainstay of industrial monitoring. However, the power required to operate a conventional SMO sensor is typically hundreds of milliwatts. Therefore, operation of a handheld monitor using conventional SMO sensors is not feasible for long-term monitoring. To overcome this problem, the authors have fabricated very-low-power microheaters and functionalized them with tungsten oxide nanoparticles to create an hydrogen sulfide sensor suitable for long-term battery-powered operation.

The Associated Press | 6 August 2014

Report Faults Chevron in Deadly Gas Well Fire

Environmental investigators faulted Chevron site managers in a report released 6 August on a natural gas well fire in western Pennsylvania that killed one worker.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report said that a contract worker with no oilfield experience worked on the well, contrary to company policy, and that the February fire “may have been caused by human error” when a lock screw was ejected from the well, allowing high-pressure methane gas to escape.

The report also said Chevron’s wellsite managers did not always provide enough oversight to contractors at the site in Dunkard, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh.

A Chevron spokesman said the company is reviewing the report.

Read the full story here.

OSHA | 1 August 2014

OSHA Launches Focused Enforcement Program To Prevent Injuries in North Dakota

Since January 2012, 34 North Dakota workers in the oil and gas and construction industries have died because of work-related injuries. During that period, their deaths accounted for 87% of all North Dakota fatalities investigated by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). OSHA launched an enforcement emphasis program in July to address continued concerns about worker safety in these North Dakota industries that temporarily brings in additional investigators from throughout the United States to increase OSHA’s field presence in North Dakota.

“These industries are inherently dangerous, and workers are exposed to multiple hazards every day. Their safety must not be compromised because demand for production keeps increasing,” said Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck. “Workers are coming to these growing industries to find jobs, not catastrophic injury and preventable death. These employers have a legal responsibility to protect every employee that works for them.”

ProAct Safety | 30 July 2014

Column: Should the Safety Department Manage Safety?

The typical corporate organizational chart isn’t what it used to be. It has gone from fat to flat, dotted lines have largely disappeared, and the safety department has been moved around like a chess piece. However, in many organizations, the safety professionals still fill a subject-matter-specific management role in safety. In such organizations, operational managers and supervisors tend to let the safety professionals manage safety while they take care of “business.”

There are several potential problems with this model that have driven many high-performing organizations to make changes.

ProAct Safety | 21 July 2014

Column: Sticky Stories are Safety Savvy

On a cold and windy day, a worker was crossing a street at his plant and was struck and killed by a truck. The driver said he was backing the truck because an exit was blocked and he never saw the worker. It looked as if the worker had been holding his coat up to block the cold wind and did not see the truck. It was speculated that the worker was used to traffic coming from the other direction and may have looked that direction and not toward the backing truck. No one witnessed the event.

Safety professionals and the supervisor conducted an investigation and concluded that certain corrective actions were warranted. They unblocked the exit and changed the design of the gate to ensure that trucks would not need to back out of the street. They also concluded that workers should wear reflective vests while working at sites where vehicles and pedestrians were both present. The use of the vest became a new rule.

Safety managers announced the new policy of wearing reflective vests at other sites and were met with stiff resistance. Workers did not want to wear the vests and resented being ordered to do so. They did not see the need for the vests and thought they would be uncomfortable and unattractive. Safety managers related the story of the accident to justify the new rule, but workers took exception and said that it was an overreaction and would not improve safety.

However, at one site, the safety manager held a meeting and simply told the story of the accident to the workers. He showed photos of the worker and his wife and children. He expressed his sympathy and his desire that no such tragedy would ever happen to any worker at his site. He asked the workers what they could do to make sure they never had such an accident. The workers suggested wearing reflective vests as one possibility and welcomed the new rule as a sensible precaution.

When asked about the reason for the rule on reflective vests a year later, only a few workers at the resistant sites could remember the story of the accident. The workers from the site that began with the story could almost recite the story in great detail.

There are several reasons for the difference in both the acceptance and remembering of the information from the accident report. For one thing, stories are sticky; they are more memorable and stick in our minds better than other types of information, such as conclusions and corrective measures.

Bloomberg | 15 July 2014

Older Tank Cars To Be Phased Out Under Industry Proposal

The oil industry and the railroads that haul its crude have offered US regulators a joint plan to phase out a type of older tank car tied to a spate of fiery accidents, according to two people familiar with the proposal.

The plan also calls for slightly thicker walls for new cars to make them less vulnerable to puncture, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private communications. The parties agreed to scrap a fleet of thousands of DOT-111s within three years if manufacturers agree they can replace or retrofit the tank cars in that period.

Representatives of the American Petroleum Institute and the Association of American Railroads met with officials of the Transportation Department and Office of Management and Budget on July 11 to present their plan, one of the people said.

ProAct Safety via LinkedIn | 14 July 2014

Column: A Better Way To Measure Safety Culture Maturity

Forget the old ways of measuring safety culture maturity. There is a new, more effective way to measure cultural maturity, and it starts with looking at the chemistry.

“Just as a growing plant needs the right elements in the soil for maximum growth, a safety culture needs the right elements in the organization to maximize its true potential for excellence. Safety culture is much more organic than most of the models recognize, and the formation of a safety culture is more akin to growing a plant than to drawing an organizational chart. If you plant the right seeds of capability and control the climate and chemistry, you will grow a safety culture toward excellence. Once it is growing, you can shape it and further adjust the climate and chemistry to maximize its potential.” —An excerpt from STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence (2013, Mathis and Galloway)

In consulting globally with many of the best in safety performance and culture, nine elements (see the figure with this post) have been identified as most important foci to establish the chemistry which facilitates the necessary climate for a culture of safety excellence to grow. Through consulting engagements and workshops, these nine elements have been successfully leveraged and measured to help organizations identify both their starting point baseline, and also to strategically prioritize which elements to focus on to advance the capabilities of their safety culture.

Oil & Gas UK | 20 June 2014

Oil & Gas UK Releases Annual Health and Safety Report

Oil & Gas UK published its annual Health & Safety report on 19 June. As in previous years, the report sets out a summary of industry health and safety performance across a range of indicators and describes many of the issues and activities influencing that performance.

Industry health and safety performance during the last year presents a mixed picture; while progress has been made across certain areas, some safety indicators have deteriorated compared with the previous year.

The report confirmed that there has been a 49% reduction in the number of reportable hydrocarbon releases over 3 years to the end of March 2013—narrowly missing the 50% industry target. Despite the decrease in the number of major and significant releases continuing a welcome 5-year downward trend, the remainder of 2013 saw an overall increase in total number of releases. There was also a slight increase in the frequency of reportable injuries and dangerous occurrences, reversing the trend of improvement in previous years.

“Despite the ongoing and encouraging decrease in major and significant releases over the last year, the industry is not yet where it needs to be,” said Robert Paterson, Oil & Gas UK’s health and safety director. “Industry, working closely with the regulators and the workforce through Step Change and other bodies, is refocusing attention on preventative strategies and programs to maintain and enhance momentum in this crucial area.”