Understanding the difference between a hazard and a risk is a starting point toward creating a culture of safety.
by Darrel Canada
In my career as a safety consultant and Master Trainer, I’ve found that assumptions and misconceptions about safety are in ample supply. That being the case, I’ve often asked groups this question: “What are we doing that we have always done that is no longer an acceptable risk?” And while there is not room enough here to print all the replies, it’s worth saying that some of the answers are just mind boggling! The short version is this: many workers and supervisors are not clear on what comprises a hazard.
So maybe a definition of that term will make a good starting point for this column.
A hazard is anything (substance, material, condition, process, activity, practice, or source of energy) that has the potential to cause damage, harm, or adverse health effects to an employee.
Furthermore, a risk refers to the chance or probability that a person will be harmed or will experience an adverse health effect if exposed to a hazard.
A hazard recognition means recognizing a condition or behavior that can cause harm, and acknowledging that the condition or behavior will cause harm… eventually, if left alone (and not remedied).
A risk analysis is the act of analyzing the probability and severity of risk in order to reduce the chance that harm will occur.
As you can see, risk analysis and hazard recognition are very important for an employer’s bottom line. When a company is willing to roll the dice and gamble that an employee will not get injured or killed, it is only a matter of time before the big costly fatality happens.
It is devastating for a family and a company when that fatality does happen. No matter how much money a family might or might not receive after the loss of a loved one, we can’t replace them and we only have memories left.
I have many people tell me in class that if they don’t climb up a derrick without a harness, they will be fired from their job. Most all of them are willing to do the job without question, because they have families to feed and bills to pay. I usually ask them in the event they are killed in a fall accident, how are they going to pay for their bills and feed their families if they are dead? I usually get a blank stare from them, and they say “Well, that happens to other people, not me!”
Under the OSHA standard—29 CFR 1910.23—the employer is required to provide fall protection for their employees. A height of four feet marks the point at which this protection becomes mandatory for workers in the oil and gas industry. Yet I continue to hear companies tell their employees that six feet is the height at which protection must be provided. Even in company orientations some companies train their employees wrong on this height. The six feet rule is found in the 29 CFR 1926.500, 1926.501, 1926.502, 1926.503. That is to say, in construction standards. These standards do not apply to the oil and gas industry, except for those occasions when location and dirt work are being done.
Everything else for the oil and gas industry appears under the 29 CFR 1910 general industry standards or appliance industry standards. Companies usually learn that lesson the hard way by getting a citation from OSHA, or even worse—getting sued for gross negligence in a civil lawsuit. I have seen fatalities that cost so much, the company is no longer able to stay in business.
For the last six months I have been teaching the new hazard recognition class, OSHA 5810, for the University of Texas at Arlington. This is a 30-hour hazard recognition course on oil and gas workers in the upstream industry. The key concepts that are covered—anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control— are vital for our industry. The principles taught in this course have application in drilling, completion, well servicing, production, product gathering, processing, and product transmission.
To get some perspective on how many areas of operation are affected by a course like this, notice what the course covers: health and environmental management systems, health hazards, industrial hygiene, Hazcom, PPE (personal protective equipment), emergency action plans, fire prevention, lockout/tagout, electrical hazards, machine guarding, material handling, walking and working surfaces, fall protection, confined spaces, excavations, inspections and preventative maintenance, and motor vehicle operations.
As can be seen, there is a phenomenal amount of information that an experienced employee can gain from a course like this one. Whether someone signs up for this course or some other reputable safety course, the point is that safety concerns exist in almost every area of E&P work.
The University of Texas at Arlington will set up a contract class with your organization for up to 20 people at a time. Just call the OSHA Education Center at 866.906.9190.
Darrel Canada is president and Master Trainer at Canada and Associates Safety Training LLC, based in Abilene, Texas. Find them at canada-associates.com.