No matter where we work, we are all entitled to remain safe while going about our duties. An oil rig is no different, and there are a number of factors that play into staying safe while working in such an environment – especially seeing as, when danger is identified on an oil rig, it can have very severe consequences.
These employment environments are considered to among the most high risk of them all, but if appropriate steps are taken there is no reason why they cannot be considered safe and secure places to work. Staying safe isn’t always about following things by the book, and in general a great deal of common sense is needed by workers on an oil rig when it comes to the small tasks as well as the more difficult ones.
While local governments will have their own national protocols for health and safety in the workplace on offshore rigs, and most will have their own qualified health and safety executives on the payroll, there are a number of universal factors that will play into staying safe in such a workplace. Four of these take the form of UK offshore regulations:
- Offshore Installation (Safety Case) Regulations 1992
- Offshore Installations (Prevention of Fire and Explosion and Emergency Response) Regulations 1995
- Offshore Installation and Pipeline Works (Management and Administration) Regulations 1995
- Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc) Regulations 1996
The owner of an oil rig will need to perform a health and safety evaluation for presentation to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive. The purpose of this risk assessment is to prove that in the – hopefully unlikely – event of an accident or emergency, employees will be safe and able to deal with the situation accordingly. External safety representatives will often be involved in this process, providing feedback and suggesting amendments for improvement wherever necessary.
The biggest concern surrounding this will involve fire. There will never be a shortage of flammable substances on-site at an oil rig, with explosions and spreading fires a very real risk- as anybody familiar with the Piper Alpha disaster of 1988 will be aware. Alongside the management of flammable materials, it’s essential that all pipes and installations throughout the rig are entirely secure and sound – and that if a structural problem should arise it can be rectified quickly and efficiently.
Employers in charge of the management of the oil rig will also have a number of responsibilities. This includes regularly meeting and communicating with the owners of the rig to ensure that health and safety protocols are in place and followed, and communicating them to any and all members of staff.
Further risk assessments will also be required for every member of staff tailored to their particular role on the site, whether they are a roustabout, a diver or an engineer, and the appropriate training must be undertaken. It’s also important to note that this training must be considered part of a typical working day, and performed free of charge by a qualified professional.
Insurance policies must also be provided to all members of staff on an oil rig, providing appropriate cover in the event of an individual falling ill or finding themselves unable to work due to an injury caused by an accident on the oil rig.
Employers should keep a record of all staff and the health and safety training they have received, and when a top up course is due. This is because machinery and practices change within a field constantly, and no company wants to be left behind with unsafe equipment, or misinformed workers.
The onus isn’t just the owner and employer, though. If you are employed on an oil rig, much like any other job, you will be expected to understand and follow the regulations laid out and take some degree of responsibility for your own safety.
A part of that will be taking care of your own health outside of your direct responsibilities, and ensuring that you are in the appropriate shape to fulfil your duties. Working on an oil rig can be gruelling and physically taxing work, often involving long shifts and late nights, so it’s in everybody’s interests to stay strong.
You’ll also be expected to be vigilant about protocol on the rig, reporting anything to a superior that you consider to be amiss. If you spot somebody failing to take the appropriate level of care, you will be counted upon to have a word with the person in question, for their sake as well as everybody else. More importantly, f you spot a potential problem that’s above your pay grade or skill level to personally repair then you will have a duty to inform somebody that can deal with it.
In addition, skipping out on any kind of kind of formal training or meetings surrounding health and safety on an oil rig is a very strict no-no. You will have to be able to respond quickly and professionally in the event of some kind of emergency so you can take care of yourself and your colleagues. You may feel that it isn’t worth the cost or the time spent, or even the exams you have to pay to take at the end, but when it comes to the crunch you’re in a location many miles away from the nearest hospital or rescue helicopter.
Accidents will happen on an oil rig, but there are a number of health and safety protocols in place to prevent them from escalating into disasters and fatalities. Everybody will need to pull in the same direction to ensure this is the case. Hundreds of workers are employed on offshore oil rigs, and like any good organisation, every person plays their part to the best of their ability to prevent any serious heath and safety errors.