Employees in the oil and gas industry go to work for the same reasons everyone else does: earning a living. Unfortunately, while high wages are one of the biggest draws of this industry, the safety risks accompanying the paycheck are not. No one wants to get injured on the job. That's why OSHA regulations exist: to keep workers safe. Some regulations, in particular, are critical for everyone to be familiar with.
General Duty Clause
Most people know that employers have a responsibility to provide their employees with a safe workplace. More specifically, the OSHA General Duty Clause states that employers must ensure that the workplace is free from recognized hazards that can or will likely result in serious injury or death. Violations of this clause are costly. Between October 2019 and September 2020, businesses in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries paid over $165,000 in violations.
One simple thing that employers can do to avoid a violation of the General Duty Clause is to provide appropriate PPE for employees. Generally speaking, the onus is on the employer to provide PPE, though employees can certainly purchase and use their own. OSHA standard 1910.132(h) outlines which party is responsible for paying for different types of PPE. Regardless of who provides the PPE, the employer is responsible for ensuring it is in good condition and being used correctly.
Proper communication regarding hazards, whether chemical, physical, or other, is crucial to maintaining a safe workplace environment. If communication is inadequate, the odds of experiencing a serious workplace accident because of those hazards increases. For example, OSHA Standard 1910.1200 provides in-depth information about labeling hazardous materials to communicate critical information about the substance or material. Proper labeling doesn't just protect employees; it also protects anyone else who encounters it down the line, whether it's sold to another business or passed on to consumers.
Managing Highly Hazardous Chemicals
Labels are just the start of safety for dangerous materials, including highly hazardous chemicals. Labels provide crucial information to workers so they can properly handle highly hazardous chemicals. That being said, employees need sufficient training on interpreting labels correctly and acting on the information they contain. Highly hazardous chemicals, as well as other workplace hazards, should be handled and stored carefully. OSHA standard 1910.176 provides guidance for handling these substances to prevent serious injury or death.
Additionally, chemicals can produce air contaminants or even be air contaminants themselves. These can cause problems for anyone, including those working in the oil and gas industry, which is why respiratory protection is vital. OSHA standard 1910.1000 regulates employee exposure to air contaminants to help reduce the risk of injury or death.
Oil and gas are highly flammable substances. As such, it is imperative for appropriate actions to be taken to reduce the risk of injury or death from fires and burns. OSHA standard 1910 subpart E regulates exit routes and emergency planning that can be integral to preserving life in the event of a workplace fire. OSHA standard 1910 subpart L provides guidance for fire protection. Quality fire-resistant safety apparel can significantly reduce the risk of harm to those who use it in the event of a fire. Portable fire extinguishers and fire alarm systems also have integral roles to play in fire protection.
Familiarity with OSHA regulations helps workers keep themselves safe and employers accountable. Given the serious dangers that workers in the oil and gas industry face, it's especially important for these regulations to be known and adhered to. When everyone makes safety a priority, everyone wins.