Complacency, training, communication and a bottom-line focus are the leading challenges in maximizing health and safety in the oil and gas industry, according to a recent survey.
The survey of 129 safety managers and front-line workers in the United States revealed an overall consensus that the industry as a whole is committed to safety. The majority of front-line workers (69 per cent) and safety managers (61.9 per cent) feel their current or previous employers often considered their safety, as well as provided the necessary training and equipment, found the survey by Dräger, a safety technology company.
Respondents agreed opportunities for improvement exist, with 66.6 per cent of safety managers ranking their current or previous safety culture as “medium,” while a mere one-third identifying it as “strong.” The need to better the industry’s safety record reflects this startling statistic from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicating one oil and gas worker is killed on average every three days.
The survey unequivocally acknowledged worker complacency as one of the greatest inhibitors to enhanced safety. Eighteen per cent of safety managers believe it to be the most significant roadblock to greater safety.
One particularly starting finding is more than one-half of front-line workers do not bump test their gas detection devices in accordance with the recommended Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guideline of prior to each day’s use. Only 28 per cent conduct it once a week, 8.7 per cent twice a month, 6.5 per cent at their discretion, 28.3 per cent didn’t know and 4.3 per cent never perform a test. Comparatively, the majority of safety managers (61.9 per cent) conduct bump tests prior to each day’s use, despite monitoring workers who often do not follow this recommended behaviour.
The survey found that more than one-half of safety managers (61.9 per cent) are “somewhat” to “not satisfied” with the frequency of safety education and training occurring at their current or most recent work site.
It also uncovered that 71.4 per cent of safety managers and 71.7 per cent of front-line workers overwhelmingly agree that incidents are learning opportunities. This point further illustrates that in-the-moment teaching is found to be most effective, even though it is not being conducted regularly in many cases, said Dräger. The survey revealed that 66.7 per cent of surveyed safety managers feel hazards and risks are only “often” or “somewhat” communicated to them following a life-threatening incident, and 52.1 per cent of surveyed front-line workers are “often” or “never” made aware of events, highlighting the lack of learning from hazardous incidents.
Both front-line workers (93.5 per cent) and safety managers (95.2 per cent) said they speak up when they observe a colleague deviating from a safe practice.
While workers are dialoguing when an unsafe practice or procedure occurs, it also is evident that lessons learned may not be passed around the work site, especially following a life-threatening incident. Nearly 43 per cent of safety managers felt they were only “sometimes” or “rarely” informed when an incident that posed an imminent threat to a worker’s life occurred, whereas 56.5 per cent of front-line workers felt they were “sometimes,” “rarely” or “never” told.
Most industries are driven by profits, and in today’s economy, companies must maximize productivity while reducing costs. Many survey participants believed this comes at the expense of worker safety. Productivity pressure was ranked as the leading cause to preventing a stronger commitment to safety.
To shift this behaviour, companies must place greater focus on recruiting and investing in the right workforce, and in acquiring and training on effective technology, said Dräger. For example, to promote safer behaviour, companies could incentivize employees beyond their hourly rate. The survey revealed that more than one-half of front-line workers (54.3 per cent) and safety managers (57.1 per cent) believe this is the best option to encourage a greater commitment to safety.