Workers in the oil and gas industry are exposed to countless dangers related to drilling and servicing wells. Workers are at an increased risk of injury — and death — using dangerous equipment on remote worksites where emergency help is at best limited, and at worst nonexistent or 100 miles away. 

As employers, you need to protect the health and safety of your workers by identifying workplace dangers. Hopefully nothing will happen, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The chance of something happening to workers increases every time they go out on a job. 

Whether your company specializes in hydroexcavation work for the oil and gas industry, or roll-off container services and site remediation, identifying risks is a smart move. Identifying, preventing and controlling exposure to hazards will save you money, increase productivity and protect the health and safety of workers. 

Related: Safety First: Dangerous Business

A comprehensive risk management plan examines any or all parts of the worksite that pose potential danger to workers, and then assesses those dangers or hazards to minimize risks. You can reduce potential worker injuries or fatalities by establishing preventative methods that are acknowledged and understood by all employees. 

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1,073 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job from 2003 to 2012.  In 2012, oil and gas extraction industry fatalities accounted for 78 percent of all fatal work injuries in the mining sector. In the oil and gas industry, risks can include everything from silica dust inhalation and falls to vehicle and confined-space accidents. 

A step-by-step approach that identifies hazards and assesses risks will allow you to provide necessary procedures for workers to prevent dangers. This process identifies the likelihood that a potential danger could harm workers in and around a worksite. 

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A basic risk management plan should: 

  1. Define and record specific hazards and identify workplace locations where hazards could occur.
  2. Identify potential problems and risk levels associated with each hazard. A numerical risk assessment scale can help identify potential risks — 1 for the lowest risk, 10 for the highest. A scale of low, medium and high risk levels would also work.
  3. List necessary — and recommended — personal protective equipment.
  4. Explain who is at risk for specified hazards (truck driver, supervisor, workover rig worker) and when the necessary elimination/control measures should be completed. 

A risk management plan for a hydroexcavation company in the oil and gas industry might look like this:

  1. Activity: Operating a hydroexcavator to dig a slot trench at an oilfield job site.
  2. Hazards: Trench collapse; Physical harm
  3. Risks: Injury and death from trench collapse or arm getting caught in vacuum hose.
  4. Risk Level: High
  5. Control Measures: Construct proper shoring; Do not stand within 2 feet of a hole; Use proper fall protection; Do not work alone; Do not wear loose-fitting clothes.
  6. Who/When: Hydroexcavator operator and all crew members; On every job. 

A comprehensive risk management plan should also include regular reassessment of the established risks and control measures. Ask workers for feedback on how the plan is working and possible changes to improve the process of identifying risks. Ask yourself: Has there been an increase or decrease of workplace accidents? Are workers following necessary procedures to reduce risks? 

Related: Guest Blog: Bear Attacks, Kills Oilfield Worker

How does your company identify and prevent on-the-job risks to workers? Post a comment below or email

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