Stewardship Series: Worker Safety is a Top Priority - 4/27/2015

The heart of the oil and natural gas industry lies within each employee, from executives to rig workers, who spends each day working to achieve our energy goals. Employees are the driving force behind making Oklahoma a leading energy producing state. That’s why each oil and natural gas company makes safety a top priority.

The oil and natural gas industry actively collects and monitors safety data and works closely with OSHA to continuously make all aspects of exploration and production safer. Every company has their own set of best practices and guidelines to manage their employees’ safety. In fact, it takes hours of training and safety education just to step onto an active worksite. This requirement is maintained throughout the year with many on-site operational positions receiving at least 25 hours of safety education each year. This education can range from single day, classroom-based oilfield safety orientations such as SafeLandUSA, to week-long, intensive sessions such as HAZWOPER 40-hour training.


“Every company working in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas faces a variety of challenges every day when it comes to managing the risk of their employees,” says Phil Browder, manager of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association’s safety program. “Not only must companies take into account the inherent hazards involved in drilling for and producing oil and natural gas, but they must also seek to minimize their workers’ vulnerabilities to these hazards.”


Browder says companies attempt to control their workers’ vulnerabilities through a variety of means, from the use of specialized mechanical equipment to administrative policies and procedures—all of which are designed to keep workers out of harm’s way. In addition, multiple pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) are required when stepping onto a worksite. Examples of typical PPE oilfield workers use every day include safety glasses, hard hats, flame-resistant clothing (FRC) and safety-toed boots. Many companies also require workers have training in emergency exit, response and rescue techniques which may include additional use of specialized PPE and equipment.


The oil and gas industry has undertaken an increased focus on worker safety since the beginning of the shale revolution in the mid 2000’s, and those efforts are working. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of fatal work injuries in domestic oil and natural gas exploration and production decreased from 125 in 2006 to 112 in 2013 (roughly a 10% reduction), all while seeing employment rise by nearly 50% over the same time period.


Browder says while the improvement is a positive sign, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. “Anyone who works in the management of health and safety in the oilfield takes the responsibility very seriously. For us, zero is the goal—zero injuries, zero near-misses, zero fatalities. When you work in a profession where zero is the standard, there is always room for improvement.”



*Bureau of Labor Statistics