How to prevent oil rig hand injuries?

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Oil rig hand injuries are the second most common type of workplace injury in the world which signifies the importance of hand protection in rig safety. In addition to the injury itself, the pain is felt more intensely since there are more pain receptors and nerve endings in the hands compared to other body parts.

The statistics from the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) in 2018 show that 20.26% of total industry lost-time incidents by body part related to fingers and 9.21% to hands. When it comes to total industry recordable incidents, the figure jumps to 31.12% for fingers and 10.29% for hands!

Common injuries to hands are often resulted from being struck by or caught between objects, contact with chemicals, heat, vibration, receiving cuts, bruises, burns, breaks, punctures, amputations, and contracting infection and biological disturbances.

The research from OSHA reveals that 70.9% of hand injuries could have been prevented with proper PPE especially safety gloves. The sad news is that 70% of workers don’t wear hand protection and 30% of those who do, don’t wear the right kind!

Of course, no solution can solve the problem of hand protection in offshore safety all on its own, rather a full range of safety measures within a comprehensive oil rig hand injury prevention strategy is essential.

In this article, we will review 6 best practices to prevent oil rig hand injuries so HSE professionals and roughnecks are reminded of the importance of hand protection.

Workers decline to wear PPE?

Are you wondering why people refuse to wear personal protective equipment when it can save their lives? This article provides some reasons.

6 best practices to prevent oil rig hand injuries

Best practices are designed based on many years of research and experience within the oil and gas industry so their application is critically important for hand safety and also the rig safety:

1. Accurate risk assessment

This is the most critical step in preventing oil rig hand injuries since danger zones are identified and color-coded in offshore safety. The goal is to minimize workers’ exposure to risks of any kind such as impact, chemical, pinch points, and puncture. This will be achieved by proper engineering controls and safety signs.

2. Designing a hands-free system

The most common cause of hand injuries is drill pipe handling and other heavy equipment around the rotary table. Automation, taglines, and push poles can eliminate workers’ involvement with such heavy objects thus lowering the rate of hand injuries.

3. Inspecting tools and machine guards

Tools are made to help humans perform hard-to-do tasks so they should be task-specific without becoming a source of hazard themselves. Workers should also be educated on how to use those tools. Protective tools such as ‘finger savers’ should be available but adjustable wrenches should be banned since they are slippery and hazardous.

Machine guards such as built-in safeguards are made to protect workers who use them. So, they must be maintained at optimal condition.

The tools are as good as the inspection and maintenance routine that manages them in offshore safety. Lack or delay of even one schedule can lead to malfunctions and catastrophic accidents that might risk the rig safety.

Inspecting tools and machine guards can prevent oil rig hand injuries
Inspecting tools and machine guards can prevent oil rig hand injuries

4. Incorporating advanced technology

Rapidly evolving technology such as automation or even remote-control pipe handling systems is revolutionary in HSE that can prevent oil rig hand injuries. One such important tech is the “Iron Derrickman” that replaces humans on top of the derrick. Remote top drive systems for hands-off casing operations are also significantly helpful.

A tech as simple as a CCTV camera is instrumental to managing equipment from the control room but integrating them with artificial intelligence to automate the whole process is just revolutionary. This is the most important improvement in preventing oil rig hand injuries which we will discuss in another article.

Some countries have even started mandating the use of such technology to improve hand protection and offshore safety.

Safety gloves are the most essential PPE to prevent oil rig hand injuries.jpg
Safety gloves are the most essential PPE to prevent oil rig hand injuries.jpg

5. Providing task-specific safety gloves

PPE is one of the most important factors for offshore safety but when it comes to hand protection, rig gloves are the only piece that matters. High-performance hand protection technologies are designed to absorb impact, have high visibility, and be waterproof and durable with a comfortable firm grip.

However, just wearing a pair of gloves is not enough. It should be appropriate for the task at hand.

6. Proper worker training

Training starts with raising awareness which is best achieved through oil rig hand injury prevention campaigns. Establishing workgroups, workshops, and distributing posters are good measures to make sure all workers are reminded of hand injuries at all times.

Certain rules are also required to minimize the risks. Banning jewelry at work is one of those rules which greatly impact the rate of hand accidents.

Simulated exercises are the best behavioral training approaches to increase the sense of urgency so workers can understand how it feels to have hand injuries and not be able to work.

Involving workers in activities such as hazard hunting has a massive impact on the way they look at their workplace and how to navigate it safely.

Presentations from those who got injured are also helpful so workers can comprehend how their life might be disturbed by such accidents and how much pain and loss they might experience.

Conclusion

Oil rig hand injuries are caused by the lack of proper prevention strategy that should consider the totality of the workplace. It should encompass 6 best practices of risk assessment to identify danger zones, the establishment of hands-free drilling operations, inspection of tools and machine guards, incorporation of advanced technology, usage of PPE mainly rig gloves, and ongoing training for the workers on how to use PPE, tools, and equipment.

The 6 best practices are equally important in preventing oil rig hand injuries but the evolving AI-based HSE system will soon shift the equation dramatically. The machine learning capability is taking over the protection in such hazardous workplaces as the oil and gas industry so oil rig hand injuries are eliminated once and for all. How can AI be involved with rig gloves? We will find out in another article.

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