September 23, 2015

Opportunities and hazards in the oil and gas industry

The oil and gas industry is a key driver of the Colorado economy, providing tens of thousands of jobs for Colorado residents and pumping billions of dollars into communities across the state.

The industry also presents potential workplace dangers that are unique to oil and gas production. But a strong focus on safety can help protect workers and make sure they leave the job site in the same condition they were in when they arrived.

Comprehensive safety and health programs are vital for the protection of workers in any industry. The best way to minimize exposure to hazards is through the hierarchy of controls:

  1. Elimination – Physically remove the hazard
  2. Substitute – Replace a process or material with one that eliminates or is less hazardous then what is currently in place
  3. Engineering controls – Physical change to the work or process that minimizes or eliminates the exposure
  4. Administrative controls – Change the way people work
  5. PPE (last resort) – Includes respirators, hard hats, gloves, etc.

A key component of the safety process is a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). A JHA helps identify the potential dangers that may exist on a site and the safe procedures specific to the task. It is not a document to be completed just to check a box. A JHA should be used on all oil and gas work sites.

One potentially hazardous task on an oil and gas site is tank gauging. If the JHA process determines that a gas monitor is required, the employer should identify the specific hazards that exist such as exposure to H2S, benzene or other toxic gases. Proper selection of a gas monitor should be addressed next. Take time to fully understand the data collected from the monitor and provide comprehensive training on the potential hazards as well as the use and limitations of the gas monitor.

When employers and employees take the time to fully understand the potential hazards of a job, the odds of a serious accident occurring drop significantly. For more information on tank gauging safety, view this alert developed by OSHA and the National STEPS Alliance.