The oil and gas industry is a lucrative sector in the United Kingdom generating large amounts of revenue and jobs annually (Gallun, Wright, & Nichols 2008). Offshore fields are associated with approximately 98% of the total oil and gas production. The region around Morecambe bay and the southern sea produces most of the gas. However, there has been a continuous reduction in the amount of gas produced in these regions.
The North Sea especially the region bordering Norway is responsible for much of the oil production in UK. In 2008, the UK ranked fourteenth globally in the global oil production index. In Europe, UK ranks second in oil and gas production behind Norway. The industry thus employs a huge a large number of people. It is for this reason that relevant institutions have undertaken various steps to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees, locals and all the people associated with the oil and gas sector.
The Health and Safety executive is the industry’s regulator and it is broken into various branches (Flin, Mearns, Gordon, & Fleming,1996).The Hazardous Installations Directorate is the operational branch which deals with major hazards.
2.0 The position of health and safety practitioner in the Oil and Gas Industry
The oil and gas industry poses various health and safety concerns for its employees as well as the surrounding population. Oil and gas industries in the UK and the world, in general, are usually considered to pose a high risk of fire as well as fatal toxic emissions. The position of health and safety practitioner, therefore, exists to mitigate the health and safety risk present in this industry.
The health and safety practitioner is charged with the role of monitoring all operations and processes pertaining oil and gas production. For starters, the practitioner carries out a risk evaluation of the work environment and takes into consideration how the present risks can be minimized. Secondly, the practitioner outlines the safe operating procedure which detects and takes into account the possible threats.
Additionally, the health and safety advisor is tasked with carrying out a site inspection to ensure implementation of the stipulated policies and procedures. Another responsibility of a health and safety practitioner is to ensure that plants engage in safe working practices that are in compliance with the relevant legislation. The health and safety advisor also carries out in-house training of employees about health and safety risks associated with their practice. It is also the role of the health and safety practitioner to keep relevant records of inspection findings and to produce reports that indicate the progress made.
2.2 Daily involvements
The position of a health and safety practitioner can be quite demanding. For instance, it may entail irregular working hours in case of an accident. The job may also involve a lot of traveling in the case of individuals tasked with manning multiple plants. Although this is an office job, the practitioner may spend long hours on offshore platforms or refinery plants when carrying out inspections and overseeing implementation of laid down procedures. The health advisor, therefore, needs to always keep tabs on new developments such as changes in legislation. The practitioner concerning health and safety in this field of practice. Furthermore, an individual working has to attend seminars organized by the institution of occupational safety and health as well as read relevant literature to help keep with the numerous changes in this field.
A health and safety practitioner should possess effective communication skills which are essential in articulating health and safety concerns to the employees. Proper communication skills are key to facilitating employees' understanding of risk concerns prevalent in the sector. This is because such skills allow an individual in this to present otherwise complex information in a simple and accurate manner.
A health and safety practitioner in this field also needs to possess negotiating skills. The negotiation skills may prove useful in convincing top management to adopt health and safety standards that negatively affect the speed or efficiency of operations. Finally, a health and safety practitioner should pay close attention to detail since minute details can prove helpful in preventing the occurrence of the risk.
3.0 Systems for effective health and safety management
There exists a definite system that ensures the proper health and safety of the workforce. The 2013 RIDDOR document provides the proper guidelines for reporting, the various occurrences within the oil and gas plants. It is the duty of the employer to report both big and small incidences considered relevant under the RIDDOR framework. The framework provides the specific classification of all incidences occurring in oil and gas plants. The incidences may range from fatal occurrences, serious injuries, and injuries to third parties, dangerous occurrences as well as work-related incidences.
The employer is required to keep a proper record of the date, time as well as a location of the occurrence (Waclawski 2013). Additionally, the employer is required to provide personal details such as name and occupation of the individuals involved. A brief description of the injury is also considered essential. If the victim of the occurrence is a third party, the name and description of the individual is recorded. The description provides details concerning the third party. For instance the victim may have been a visitor or a client. The date on which the employer reported the incident should also be recorded. In case of diseases, a detailed record and report should be made immediately after diagnosis.
The employer or other responsible party is then required to submit the recorded information to the Health and Safety Executive upon request. The employer should also remember to retain a copy of the records in case of future requirements. The employer is required to maintain the death records and dangerous occurrence records for a period of at least three years. There is no set rule considering record keeping so long as the relevant details are provide. The employer is therefore afforded the freedom to arrange the documents in a manner that satisfies the needs of the organization.
The Health safety executive is then responsible for analyzing the data provided and publishing an annual statistics report detailing the accidents and risks in the various sectors including the oil and gas industry. The relevant stakeholders then go on to draw policies and regulations to mitigate the reported cases of accidents. The next report is then used to assess the progress made in reducing the number of reported cases and the role played by the newly implemented rules and policies. Recording and reporting of incidences thus make it possible for the Health and Safety Executive to monitor and prevent occurrence of work-related risks and hazards.
4.0 Legal, ethical and business case for health and safety management.
Owners and operators of offshore installations are required to mitigate hazards that might compromise the health and safety of employees and the surrounding community. The health and safety executive thus requires the owners and operators to undertake certain actions. First, the owners are required to demonstrate the ability to effectively control major accidents by preparing an elaborate safety case. The safety case is then reviewed by the reviewed and revised by safety representatives.
The owner is then required to comply with the safety case guidelines in the management and operation of the facility. Additionally, the installation's owner will be required to take preventive measures to mitigate the release of toxic or flammable substances into the atmosphere. It is also incumbent upon the operator to ensure the integrity of the well and pipeline infrastructure is maintained throughout the period of operation.
The Health Safety Executive is charged with ensuring that players in the industry adhere to health and safety regulations. The Health Safety Executive the various regulation acts at its disposal to enforce policies on the oil and gas industrial players (ALRAMAHI, 2018). For instance, it uses the offshore installations act of 2015 to address management of control of accidents and dangerous occurrences. She act also outlines the safety case requirements before the establishment of installations by operators and owners. There also exists acts that govern emergency responses, prevention of fire and explosion as well as the construction design of plant infrastructure.
4.1 Need to remain compliant and up to date with legislation
The health and safety act of 1974 is considered the key pillar in health and safety regulation among various sectors including the oil and gas industry in the United Kingdom (Gilliver, 1998). The act seeks to provide a safe work environment for all employees by ensuring the safety of plant and related machinery as well as taking measures to control and prevent occurrences of harm (Gilbert 2008). Improvements in technology have led to the use of new processes and equipment in the oil and gas industry.
Consequently, there has been an increase in the number and types of risk associated with the industry. Therefore, there has been a continuous review of the health and safety act to address new challenges. Personnel working in the industry should, therefore, keep up to date with new legislation to avoid violation of newly established rules and regulations.
Employers need to remain compliant to the health and safety act for various reasons. The health and safety act provides essential information on the extent to which the employer is liable for the health of an expectant mother. The act provides that the employer should make various adjustments to ensure the health and safety of the mother and her unborn child. This may include a reduction in the number of hours as well as improvement in working conditions. In extreme cases, the employer may be allowed to suspend the pregnant woman on full pay pending delivery and subsequent recovery.
The employer is also required to be in compliance with the health and safety act so as to offer more protection to the young people in the workforce. According to a legislation enacted in 1999, workers aged 16 to 18 years may expose themselves to higher risk due to the small age and lack of experience (Cowley 2015). The act makes it illegal for employers to assign highly risky or physically demanding tasks to young workers who lack proper capabilities and experience.
It is also essential for the owners and operators of installations to keep up to date with legislation concerning the health and safety act and the approved codes of practice. The approved codes practice provide the basis for the formulation of firms' code of ethics (Asrilhant, Meadows & Dyson.2006). The health and safety act also provides the relevant procedure in risk assessment.
The 1995 regulations governing the reporting of dangerous occurrences were reviewed in 2013. As a result, some changes were to the major injuries category. In addition, the industrial diseases were grouped into eight classes. It is therefore essential for employers to keep themselves up to date with the relevant changes for more informative reporting of occurrences at the workplace.
4.2 Training of employees
Other ethical requirements for an installation operator include training employees on personal protective equipment, the stipulated systems of work, evacuation procedures as well as the permit to work. Personal protective equipment includes helmets, gloves, eye protection and all other clothing worn by an employee to protect him or her from health and safety risks. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide personal protective equipment as well as the relevant training on the use of the equipment (Gordon, Paterson & U?s?enmez 2018). The training involves informing the employees when it is necessary to wear the relent PPE.
After the training, employees should be able to properly wear and efficiently operate with the PPE. Additionally, the employees should be able to take off the PPE, as well as clean and maintain it in good working condition. The employer is tasked with evaluating the employees' understanding of the proper use of PPE (Javaherdashti, Nwaoha & Tan 2016). The employees that demonstrate a clear understanding of all the requirements should then be allowed to clearance to undertake the assigned job. It is unethical for the employer to hire workers who lack knowledge on the proper use of personal protective equipment.
Workers in the oil and gas installations should undergo relevant training on fire and evacuation procedures. The installation owner or safety conducts proper training by relying on health and safety practitioners formulate an adequate emergency response by reviewing all the major hazards within the work environment. After identifying and summarizing all the possible health hazards, the health practitioner is then able to develop various scenarios as well as the required response. The health and safety practitioner can then take the employees through the various infrastructure in the plant and address the relevant sources of danger. The health and safety advisor then informs the workers on how to respond to various case scenarios. The trainer also informs the employees of the standard response procedure in cases of unforeseen scenarios.
- Safety issues in the industry
5.1 Occupational hazards
Oil and gas and exploration in the United Kingdom mainly takes place offshore. Majority of the occupational health hazards occurring in the oil and gas industry are therefore present offshore. Some of the hazards include fire and explosion which result from ignition of released hydrocarbon. The hydrocarbon may be accidentally released from well or the pipelines in the refinery or oil extraction plants (Bain, B. 2016). The releases may be as a result of corrosion, abrasion or fracture which resulting from poor maintenance of the plant infrastructure, Hydrocarbon releases may also result damage of pipes by equipment such as cranes in the course of operation (Gilroy & Dumolo 2013).
The occupational health hazards experienced by offshore workers can be categorized as physical, biological, chemical as well as psychological. Chemical hazards include toxic, irritant as well as carcinogenic substances that workers are likely to handle in their daily operations. Physical hazards, on the other hand, are encountered in form of noise, vibration as well as radiation. Biological hazards are usually related with food and water poisoning.
Some of the chemicals to which the workers are exposed to can lead to instant fatalities. Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical gas that is found in oil and natural deposits. Offshore workers can interact with hydrogen supplied in the oil and gas refineries, wells or pipelines that transport unrefined petroleum (Hilyard 2012). Hydrogen supplied is a colorless gas that has a smell resembling that of rotten eggs. Exposure to the gas causes irritation to the eyes as well as organs such as the lungs. Excessive inhalation of the gas can lead to quick fatalities if there is no immediate medical intervention.
There are also health and safety concerns regarding offshore workers involved in the drilling of oil or gas. During the drilling process, a large amount of fluids is transported through the well into high-temperature chamber (El-Reedy 2008). The fluids are stirred during the whole process of circulation during which workers may become exposed and suffer adverse health effects. Some of the effects include nausea, headaches, dizziness as well as drowsiness. The workers may also suffer sensitization due to skin contact with the fluids. Oil mists can also cause inflammation of the respiratory system or even cancer resulting from the toxic compounds in the mist.
Oil and gas has natural toxic components such as mercury. The process of extracting mercury involves movement of the substance in form of gas and vapor from the geological deposits into gas chambers (Burton 2011). The gas and vapor is then undergoes condensation in coolers and heat exchangers. Workers responsible for the repair of these heat exchangers risk exposure to mercury. Workers may also increase risk of exposure to mercury if they engage in activities such as cleaning of vessels, fitting of pipes and installation of relevant infrastructure.
5.2 Statistics relating to offshore accidents and risks
Population of workers in the industry are recorded based on personnel tracking system. By recording the population, relevant institutions are able to keep track on progress and relevant statistics concerning workers in the oil and gas industry. According to the 2009/10 annual report by the health and safety executive, there were no fatalities experienced in the sector marking a third consecutive year in which no fatalities were reported (Kemp 2012).
The report also indicated that there were 50 major injuries experienced in the country. Fractures were the biggest contributor to injuries as it accounted for 54% of the major injuries. Other types of injuries resulted from straining as well as spraining of body parts. The report further indicates that 20% of all injuries were as a result of handling, lifting as well as carrying activities. A further 29.4% occurred from being hit by falling or moving objects. Falls and trips also contributed to 23.1% of all injuries reported during the period.
The number of dangerous incidences reported in the industry has been fairly consistent over a five year period beginning 2009 (In Sherik 2017). There was, however, a drop in the number of incidences reported in the 2012-2013 calendar year. However, there was a subsequent increase in the next 2 years before another decline in 2015. Below is a graphical representation of the number of dangerous incidences reported over a sixteen year period according to the health and safety executive.
There were a total of 276 dangerous occurrences reported in the oil, gas and related industries in 2017. The health and safety report indicates that 44 pipeline incidences were reported. An additional 7 of the total occurrences reported were as a result of collapse or overturning of equipment. A further 10 cases of diving were reported. Dropped objects are the leading category accounting for 59 of the occurences.It was followed by hydrocarbon releases which resulted in 54 hazardous cases. Fires, weather factors, evacuation, equipment malfunction, loss of containment among other factors credited for the other cases reported. Below is a graphical breakdown of the dangerous occurrences reported in the 2017 calendar year.
According to the above essay, the position of health and safety practitioner is demanding and requires the individual to have a proper set of social skills to perform effectively and efficiently. It is also equally important for employers to maintain a proper record of work-related incidences to help formulate policies that will lead to a reduction in the number of accidents (Sugimoto 2010).
There is also an essential need for operators in the oil and gas sector to maintain ethical and legal standards so as to protect the lives of their workers as well as that of the surrounding community. Through organized training and education, employers are able to equip workers with the proper skills required in minimizing exposure to hazards. Employers should also keep up to date with new changes in regulations to avoid compromising the health of the workforce.
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