Working On Offshore Can Be Dangerous
One of the most dangerous careers and hazardous professions both physically and mentally is working on an offshore oil and gas platform, because of the isolation, the extreme weather conditions, the location conditions and the operating of heavy machinery and equipment for hours at a time that can cause high risk of injuries and death. If something goes wrong on an offshore location, the results can be disastrous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its report recommends that “employers should ensure that the most stringent applicable transportation safety guidelines are followed.”
According to the UK Health and Safety Executive – (HSE), several divisions are taken as the most dangerous offshore jobs where most accidents and injuries occur, such as:
- Deck Operations: There were around 39 incidents recorded from 2012 to 2014
- Management and Accommodation: There were 43 death from 2013 to 2015
- Oil and Gas: There were 56 incidents in 2014
- Maintenance and Construction: There were 76 recorded injuries in this sector from 2014 to 2015
- Drilling and Production: From 2014 to 2015, 19 incidents were recorded offshore UK and there is no evidence that current drilling safety measures are protecting drill operators
In most of these divisions, the heavy machinery and the high speed of the equipment used are a constant source of potential hazard. Oil and gas leaks that have led to major explosions, as in the case of Piper Alpha and Deepwater Horizon, are particularly lethal and devastate the local marine environment.
Safety should always be the number one concern of both employers and employees when working offshore. When safety becomes a secondary thought, serious accidents, injuries and even death can occur.
The worst offshore accident to ever occur happened on the Piper Alpha Production Platform in the North Sea in 1988. The explosion and resulting fires led to the death of 167 workers, with only 61 people surviving the incident. The incident also caused a huge amount of monetary damage, as it destroyed the platform which had been pumping out ten percent of all oil and gas from the North Sea.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon blow out in the Gulf of Mexico was another serious incident. An explosion on the offshore rig led to a huge oil spill and the worst environmental disaster in the history of the U.S. The accident also injured 17 workers and killed 11 more. Those 11 were never recovered and were thought to have been near the explosion when it happened.
Another fire aboard a natural gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico occurred in 2013, although this one was much less serious. A blowout occurred and started the fire. Forty-four workers aboard the rig were safely evacuated. The fire was put out fairly quickly and the hurried response kept the workers safe and uninjured, and prevented another spill that could have created more environmental damage.
According to the CDC, the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry (onshore and offshore combined) had a collective fatality rate seven times higher than all other U.S. workers between 2003 and 2010. Out of every 100,000 employees in this field, 27.1 suffered a fatal accident, on average, and 51 percent of these accidents involved some sort of transportation. Between 2003 and 2010, 128 fatalities occurred during offshore oil and gas operations, an average of 16 per year.
Leading Cause of Accidents Offshore
There are many ways in which accidents can occur on offshore rigs and platforms. According to the popular oil and gas industry news website Fuel Fix, four of every five major offshore accidents are caused by human error and the remaining 20 percent are caused by mechanical or structural failures.
The following are the major hazards that can affect offshore workers:
- Fires and Explosions: Fires caused by leaks are a major concern for workers on oil rigs. Any ignition source, whether it’s a spark caused by friction in the oil rig’s mechanisms or an unexpected rise in pressure in the subsea oil well, can trigger catastrophic fires and blowout-type explosions. In most cases, the oil rig crews extinguish fires quickly and few injuries occur. As with workers on a ship, there may not be an easy way to escape when a fire breaks out and this can lead to falls off the rig, smoke inhalation, burns and even death. According to the CDC, fires and explosions represent the third-leading cause of fatalities on oil rigs and platforms seven percent of all fatalities among oil workers were attributable to fires between 2003 and 2006, while an additional nine percent were attributed to explosions.
- Fall-related Accidents: Offshore oil rigs operates mostly above the water. As a result, most workers clamber up and down ladders from one deck of the rig to another or perform their jobs near the deck rails overlooking the water. Although oil rig workers wear safety gear that includes steel-toed boots with soles designed to provide good traction, falls from higher levels to lower ones or into the water are the cause many accidental injuries and deaths. These accidents stem from various causes, including lack of safety training, presence of a low safety culture in some companies, trip hazards, and poorly maintained ladders and safety railings. According to the CDC, offshore oil rig workers were included among the 605 workers killed in 2009 because of fall-related accidents.
- Falling Objects can also injure offshore workers. This is why hard hats should be used by all employees. Falling object accidents occur when a worker drops a heavy tool and it hits an unsuspecting employee on the head. In many instances, the tool’s size, weight, and the height from which it is dropped can cause serious injury to the worker even though the worker wears a hard hat. According to BLS statistics, 263 workers in various occupations died in 2010 because of dropped tools or other fallen objects. Many of these deaths occurred because workers lost their grips on tools or left tools or heavy objects unattended in high places from which they could fall. Other fall-from-height objects that cause injuries or deaths on offshore oil rigs include sections of pipe, metal panelling and unattached equipment parts, such as batteries and saw blades.
- Hazardous Machinery can pose dangers to workers, such as: the drill pipe, spinning machinery and support units (cranes and forklifts). The fact that such machines are often quite noisy makes this danger even more present, as it can be difficult for workers to communicate with each other. Mechanical failures of equipment or misuse of heavy equipment used in drilling on platforms can also cause accidents. According to the CDC, contact with equipment and machinery was the second-leading cause of death on oil rigs, six percent of oil worker deaths between 2003 and 2006 were due to workers being crushed by moving machinery and additional five percent were killed by electrocution.
- Transportation: One of the causes of accidents and fatalities for oil rig and platform workers is related to transportation. Workers must be transported to and from offshore rigs and these trips can be dangerous. Most deaths occurred when workers were being flown by helicopter and bad weather was most often to blame. Workers may also be transported to rigs by ship or boat and these also account for a significant number of fatal accidents.
- Dangerous and Toxic chemicals: Workers on offshore rigs and platforms are also at risk of being exposed to dangerous and toxic chemicals, including the oil and gas they are drilling for. Exposure is the fourth-leading cause of death for these workers, but accidents that lead to exposure can also cause illnesses and injuries in addition to fatalities.
The other cause to the accidents on offshore result from negligence, lack of attention, loss of concentration, lack of professionalism, lack of knowledge about the task at hand, fatigue and physical error.
Companies within these industries must take care to address each of these sources of hazard. Doing so can save them from losing money due to accidents and mistakes, and it can also prevent serious injuries or fatalities among the workforce.
Injuries from Accidents Offshore
The worst effects of accidents on offshore are injuries, starting from mild to severe and life threatening. Weather can cause hypothermia or falls overboard. Accidents with equipment can cause head injuries, neck injuries, shoulder injuries and lost limbs, and these injuries can lead to cuts, lacerations and in extreme circumstances even amputation. Fires can cause burns and respiratory illnesses. Exposure to chemicals can cause rashes and respiratory distress, as well as burns. Transportation accidents that aren’t fatal may lead to broken bones, hypothermia, and back, neck and head injuries.
How to Prevent Accident Offshore
There is always inherent risk when working offshore is always, even under the best conditions. Companies should apply a strong emphasis on “safety first, job second” and foster a strong safety culture to help prevent accidents.
The following are some of the ways to prevent accidents from happening:
- The main rule of “Safety First”: The rule of safety should be applied in the mind, attitude and behaviour of all workers, supervisors, managers and directors to maintain a safe working environment and to always be aware and alert to possible hazards.
- Pre-entry Training: All new workers, transferred workers and subcontractors must be required to carry out initial training before being allowed to enter and work on site. It includes instruction on the machinery and equipment in use as well as all safety and evacuation procedures. They should also be trained to look out for each other, point out any potential hazards to supervisors and fellow workers and remind others of the rules and procedures when they see something being done that is potentially hazardous. It is not just training, but actively working together to instil the safety culture day-to-day and ensuring everyone is following the correct procedures, thus resulting in a safer work environment for everyone.
- Wear Required Personal Protective Equipment: To avoid getting injuries, all sites require mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety glasses, hard hats, gloves, steel-toed boots, respirators (where required) and fire resistant clothing. Workers who do not wear the right PPE should not be allowed onto the work site.
- Continuous Work and Report by the Safety Manager / Supervisor: The Safety Manager / Supervisor should conduct regular maintenance checks of all machinery on site to help prevent premature failure and to identify any potential hazards. The Safety Manager / Supervisor should also make safety and inspection reports on a regular schedule to let higher management know the situation and condition of the location, equipment and workforce, with any potential hazards highlighted and suggestions for preventative measures. The Safety Manager / Supervisor should make safety policies available both on paper and online to share the best practices with employees, and provide updates and news of safety conditions at the company.
Safety and Survival Training for Offshore Companies
Offshore Companies must invest more in both the safety knowledge and skills of their work force to help mitigate hazards and reduce the incidence of accidents and the associated costs they can incur. The Safety Manager / Supervisor should develop an appropriate training matrix for all employees and ensure that adequate, competency based training is provided to their workers in line with that matrix and at regular intervals to ensure retention of knowledge. Samson Tiara can help with both the identification of training needs and the delivery of internationally accredited safety and survival training.
Samson Tiara provides a wide range of Safety and Survival Training for offshore oil & gas companies and their workers. The OPITO Approved Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET) and Tropical Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (T-BOSIET) courses are among the first training programmes a worker should take before working offshore. While accepted globally, the BOSIET is designed for workers in cold water regions, utilising cold water survival suits and Emergency Breathing Systems (EBS). The T-BOSIET is only for workers in warm water / tropical regions and does not cover the use of survival suits, but does have an optional addon for EBS for those operators that employ these life saving devices on their helicopters.
Recently, Samson Tiara was accredited by OPITO to provide both of these courses via Digital Delivery. This saves both time and money, allowing the worker to conduct the theoretical training online through via computer, tablet or mobile device at their own pace, and then attend a single day of practical training at our training centre when complete.
This certification is valid for 4 years, and can be refreshed with a single day of practical refresher training by taking the Further Offshore Emergency Training (FOET) or the Tropical Further Offshore Emergency Training (T-FOET) courses.
Our Safety and Survival Training can help offshore workers to increase their knowledge to prevent and handle emergency situations which may occur when working on an offshore installation. The following area are covered in these courses:
- Offshore Safety Induction
- Appropriate use of safety equipment during helicopter emergencies
- Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) including Emergency Breathing Systems (EBS) where aplicable
- Sea survival using survival suits (BOSIET) and life rafts, and lifeboat (TEMPSC)
- Familiarisation with evacuation, boarding and launching aboard a lifeboat (TEMPSC)
- Basic First Aid training & techniques for handling Hypothermia
- Basic Firefighting training and practical use of firefighting equipment and self-rescue from low visibility situations
After completion, successful delegates will receive Samson Tiara / Survival Systems Asia Certificate approved by OPITO, and wallet sized ID card detailing their course qualification.
Samson Tiara is dedicated to improving the safety and wellbeing of all workers, and provides a wide range of other safety training. To find out more about the training we offer and what we can do to improve worker safety in your organization, please feel free to contact us at:
The Garden Center #6-03,
Kawasan Komersial Cilandak,
Jl. Raya Cilandak KKO,
Jakarta 12560, Indonesia
Phone: +62 21 780 1388
Fax: +62 21 780 1389
* PT. Samson Tiara is 1 of 14 TEEX accredited training providers in the world.*
* PT. Samson Tiara is the first OPITO Approved Training Provider in Indonesia & winner of the 2016 OPITO training provider of the year.*
References and Further Reading
The most dangerous offshore jobs: five risky professions:
Offshore Maritime Accidents and Injuries:
What Is the Leading Cause of Offshore Accidents?https://www.mattandallen.com/leading-cause-offshore-accidents/
Dangers on an Onshore Oil Rig:
The Dangers of Offshore Oil Rigs:
Safety First, Job Second: 10 Ways to Keep Your Offshore Oil Rig Injury and Fatality Free: