A Surprising Safety Fix for Rig Workers: Seatbelts
One of the most interesting things about human behavior is that understanding a problem can help you change your behavior so the problem can be eliminated altogether. This is good news for any business hoping to improve its safety record, especially if there is an area of employee safety that’s simple to address.
It’s no secret that safety is a primary concern in the energy sector. While processes and equipment are constantly improving, the fatality rate for oil field workers is about the same as that of coal miners, twice the rate of construction workers, and 8 times the national average for all workers.
And here’s a surprise: over one third of oil field fatalities happens when workers are driving or riding in moving vehicles. That’s not exactly the kind of high risk situation you associate with pumping hydrocarbons to the surface.
Making your company the kind of workplace where safety is your top goal is a big step in reducing accidents. And that step will also get you closer to cost efficient operations. Safety plans work best when they’re supported by every level of the company, making the message clear to individual workers.
Sure there are some big risks associated with drilling, but not every accident happens when drilling. Take, for example, that fact that a third of lost lives happen in vehicle accidents. People in the industry did and they decided that was one statistic that could be easily improved. In fact, they created an auto safety training program and the results are impressive.
Schlumberger safety specialists presented a driving improvement plan at the Society of Petroleum Engineers International Health, Safety and Environment conference in 2006. They used detailed reports of vehicle accidents to see what caused them. Then they developed a training and rewards program that would fix the problem.
Schlumberger found that with management support and an emphasis on motor vehicle safety, employees’ driving improved and there were fewer accidents. And fewer accidents means happier employees and better company efficiency — a win-win situation if there ever was one.
This approach also gets support from NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency that researches how to prevent on-the-job accidents. Another surprise: You want to guess what piece of protective gear they recommend for oil field employees? A seatbelt.
When everyone from rig workers to executives wears seatbelts, even on short trips between sites, safety records improve.
The oil business is demanding. Everyone wants increased production and decreased prices. So demands on workers are high. Workers’ physical skills and mental focus are sometimes stretched to the limit.
Companies who value their employees will remind them that safety comes first. They’ll train them to understand that they can make a big difference even by doing something simple like wearing a seatbelt.