Hydrocarbon Processing | 6 October 2015

CSB Probe of DuPont’s Deadly Chemical Leak Finds Process Safety Lapses

An ongoing investigation by the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) of the 15 November 2014 toxic chemical leak that killed four workers at DuPont’s insecticide plant in La Porte, Texas, has uncovered flawed safety procedures, design problems, and inadequate planning.

Nearly 24,000 lbm of deadly methyl mercaptan escaped in the middle of the night through two valves in a poorly ventilated manufacturing building. In one area of the plant, operations personnel attempted to clear blocked piping. Later, in a different area, two workers opened valves in response to what they believed was a routine, unrelated pressure problem.

The two workers were killed when liquid methyl mercaptan drained from the open valves, filling the room with toxic vapor. One of those workers made a distress call, and two additional workers died responding to that call.

Ocean News & Technology | 25 September 2015

BSEE Conducts Unannounced Oil Spill Exercise With Gulf of Mexico Operator

Analysts and engineers from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) Oil Spill Preparedness Division and Gulf of Mexico Region recently conducted an unannounced spill drill of Arena Offshore. The 9-September 1-day exercise simulated a loss of well control event from a platform in shallow water, approximately 35 miles south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. These exercises test an operator’s response to an incident using their oil spill response plan.

Arena Offshore currently operates more than 30 oil and gas fields on the Gulf of Mexico Shelf, comprising approximately 95 platforms and more than 190 producing wells. The company typically drills 20 to 30 wells per year and has operated more than 200 offshore drill wells in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy of Arena Offshore.

As part of the drill, Arena Offshore was required to respond to a simulated loss of well control due to a potential blowout of the well. During an exercise, an operator demonstrates successful notifications and implements other elements included in its oil spill response plan. The operator worked from its offices in The Woodlands, Texas, while coordinating simulated response actions with its contracted spill response company in Slidell, Louisiana, throughout the exercise. BSEE staff observed the operator’s response in both locations. The US Coast Guard and US Fish and Wildlife Service also attended the exercise.

Offshore Energy Today | 25 September 2015

BSEE Makes Waves for Oil Spill Response Research

Ohmsett, the National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Facility, recently hosted a Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)-contracted team of scientists from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) who evaluated the ability of the test tank wave generator to produce breaking waves at designated areas in the tank.

BSEE maintains and operates the Ohmsett facility, which is used by numerous government agencies, private companies, academic organizations, and international organizations to conduct oil spill response research, testing and training. According to BSEE, the Ohmsett facility houses the largest wave/tow tank in North America; marine energy-related technologies are also tested there.

BSEE is working to develop a means of generating predictable and reproducible breaking waves in the tank to be able to quantify and compare the effect of the energy from breaking waves on oil mitigation systems and energy-capturing devices. The NJIT team experimented with two methods for generating breaking waves at preset locations and time intervals, while collecting wave data to be analyzed with a fluid dynamics software program.

The Denver Post | 17 September 2015

Feds in Colorado Launch Huge Oil and Gas Worker Safety Study

An unprecedented study of the hazards rooted in America’s largest oil patches will be launched next year by federal health officials in Colorado, who hope to cut the dangers faced by oil and gas workers.

Scientists from the Denver office of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health—which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—will distribute questionnaires to 500 oilfield workers in North Dakota, Texas, and another unnamed state.

Institute personnel will fan out to so-called “man camps”; training centers; equipment and trucking yards; wellsites; and community centers in oilfield towns.

Oilfield work is considered one of the most dangerous in the country. Between 2005 and 2009, the national occupational fatality rate for the oil and gas industry was seven times higher than the general industry rate and 2½ times higher than the construction industry rate.

Occupational Health & Safety | 14 September 2015

Optimizing Worker Safety: State-of-the-Art Flashlights Protect Against Workplace Hazards

Construction and other industrial professionals who rely on flashlights and lanterns to light their way under low-light conditions have never been safer: Recent advances in lighting technology are offering procurers and users a wide range of new lighting tools and features for keeping workers safer on the job.

The latest hand-held flashlights deliver flood light-type brightness, while new scene lights can adapt for use in any environment. And a growing number of lights offer protection in hazardous environments. Today’s professional-grade lighting products also feature an unprecedented number of safety features and applications.

Arabian Oil and Gas | 11 September 2015

The Economics of Safety at USD-60 Oil

The repercussions of the sharp decline in oil price are being felt globally, and, in this new era of cost-cutting and increasing efficiency, the industry must ensure it keeps its people safe and continues to develop the skills of the workforce.

In times of cost reduction, all too often, and wrongly, training and development budgets are prime targets for budget cuts. But such sweeping cuts in these areas are often born from ignorance of the real harm they cause and only serve as short-term measures. History shows that the true cost of cuts in training come back to haunt us later in the form of skills shortages and wage inflation.

Hazards and risk remain the same regardless of the oil price and a lower BOE must not mean that they are managed differently.

Eco Magazine | 11 September 2015

BSEE To Host International Regulators Forum Offshore Safety Conference

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) will host the 2015 International Regulators’ Forum (IRF) Offshore Safety Conference “Risk Reduction: From Desktop to Deck Plate” in Washington, DC, on 19–20 October 2015.

IRF 2015 will focus on moving safety in the offshore petroleum industry from concepts discussed in the boardroom to effective implementation out in the field. It will provide a forum for industry, regulators, citizen stakeholders, and practitioners to openly discuss best practices and industry trends.

The IRF is the international forum of offshore petroleum health and safety regulators whose members are dedicated to the common cause of raising offshore health and safety standards. The IRF exists to drive forward improvements in health and safety in the offshore petroleum sector through information sharing and collaboration in joint programs.

Regulatory officials from all nations with ongoing or proposed offshore oil and gas activity are invited to attend the conference, as are offshore industry representatives, health and safety professionals, members of the academic community and the general public. The purpose of the conference is to share experiences and to explore the applicability of risk reduction techniques used by other industry sectors to offshore energy development activities.

SciTech Connect | 10 September 2015

Column: Health Safety and Environmental Features in Plant Design

Beginners at process plant design tend to see the health, safety, and environmental (HSE) features of a design as something to be sprinkled over the design after it is finished. This is not, however, the way that professionals treat it.

Why is HSE the No. 1 concern? Process engineering (especially water process engineering) saves far more lives than the best medical practitioners ever will, but we can do harm on an industrial scale as well. The worst doctor who ever lived might have killed a few hundred people over a long period of time. Bad engineering could kill tens of thousands of people in a day.

The most pressing argument for the prime importance of safety issues is the more-or-less-universal ethical one that people should not die or be injured so that we can make money. The argument for avoidance of environmental degradation is weaker.

Scott Nadler | 9 September 2015

Column: Safety Is Job 2?

Safety is not Job 1, as so often claimed. If safety were Job 1, we would never leave the house. We would never cross a street. We would never get in a car or on a plane.

If safety were Job 1, companies would go out of business rather than send employees out to drill for oil, mine iron ore, operate a drill press or a band saw, or drive a truck in New Jersey.

Let’s admit it. Doing the job is Job 1. Doing it safely is Job 1½, or Job 2, or Job 1.2, or whatever you want to call it. Are there times that the safety risks are such that the job should not go on? Sure. Is it every employee’s responsibility to make those decisions at times? Yes. Is it leadership’s job to help ensure those decisions are made properly and supported? Absolutely.

Even more importantly, it is leadership’s job to minimize the likelihood that front-line employees and managers have to make those difficult decisions about walking off the job or doing the job unsafely. But it is also leadership’s job to ensure that customers are pleased, shareholders and lenders are satisfied, employees are respected and treated fairly, and laws are obeyed. At different times, those are all Job 1. Balancing those jobs is difficult in the best of times.

That is the challenge leaders face every day, but especially in companies under stress. When the price of your product drops by half, survival is Job 1. We all know it. Companies under stress face huge demands to cut costs, reduce margins of safety, and do whatever it takes to get the job done faster and cheaper.

ProAct Safety | 5 September 2015

Column: What Is Your Safety Management Style?

Does your organization designate a particular style of management they desire and promote for safety? Strategically thinking organizations often do.

Sometimes the “official” style of management for the overall organization is applied to safety, and sometimes safety has its own style. Whichever way you choose, your designated management style can help to shape the safety performance of your workforce. In fact, defining what excellent worker performance might look like can help you determine which management style can help you achieve your goals. | 4 September 2015

Column: Forecasting Safety

Here is the challenge for anyone who holds to the mantra “all accidents are preventable.” Ask them to predict how long it will be in their organization, or any organization for that matter, that they will be harm free. Hopefully they will go to their injury data and, based on the history of injury at their organization, make a prediction to match.

Unfortunately, injury data provides no information about safety culture or predictability, but that is what traditional safety does. You can be injury and harm free for a decade, and yet this is no basis for forecasting anything. Randomness (the lack of order, pattern, and predictability) has that unique capability of proving all human forecasting wrong. Make a prediction about who will be in and win the grand final, then put some money on it. We call that gambling, and you will most likely lose, humans don’t have the infallibility to forecast successfully.

Forecasting is the foundation of traditional strategic planning and is viewed as something that shapes the future. While an excellent thinking exercise, strategic planning rarely attains what is predicted, even in the short term and most certainly never in the long term. We are, however, fantastic at hindsight and remind ourselves of all the times things we predicated came true and forget the many times our predictions were false. This is how we maintain the myth of forecasting.

Riad Mannan via LinkedIn | 3 September 2015

Column: Safety Matters in the Middle East

With workplace health and safety becoming a key priority for Gulf Cooperation Council governments, all organizations across all sectors are now being advised to have the right strategies in place and ensure best practices. While there are variations across the region in terms of policies, regulations, company strategies, and implementations, it is generally accepted that the trend is positive.

From oil and gas through construction, industrial, manufacturing, and the marine sector, safe working practices are key to all segments of the regional economy. Great strides have indeed been made in recent years to ensure better health, safety, and environment (HSE) conditions for workers and the public, but it is essential that modern HSE management be incorporated and integrated into businesses like never before.

However, I would suggest three key barriers remain to achieve best practice, namely around securing buy-in from organizational leaders, creating and embedding a strong HSE culture, and interlocking safety and corporate structure.