With the oil and gas industry always striving to brand itself as one that is safe, responsive to global trends, and respectful of both humans and the environment, hazard identification and management is an especially critical area of work. The better workers understand the steps that go into hazard management, the more goodwill your plan is likely to generate and the more compliance you are likely to see.

1. Identifying safety hazards

There are a wide variety of safety hazards in the oil and gas industry, but the good news is that many of them are quite easy to identify with even limited training. These include slip, trip, and fall hazards, electrical hazards, and clearly broken equipment. Others require more specialized knowledge, including equipment inspections and maintenance.

Onsite inspections aren’t the only source of information about safety hazards, though. Other sources of information include:

  • Equipment operating manuals
  • Incident reports
  • Inspection reports
  • Workers’ compensation records
  • Input from workers

This will help you to assemble a comprehensive list of past, current, and potential safety hazards.

2. Identifying health hazards

Health hazards are often more challenging to identify than safety hazards, so it’s especially important to have people trained to assess these kinds of dangers on your health and safety team. Health hazards can include things like chemicals, noise, heat, diseases, allergens, and ergonomic risk factors.

Some of these risks can be measured easily and directly. It is not too difficult to figure out whether a space is too hot or too loud, for example. Others are typically discovered only indirectly (like the presence of infectious materials or mold), through amassed health data. And some can be measured directly, but require the use of specialized equipment. Health hazards of this nature include air quality and radioactivity.

Combining information on similar worker health incidents is often one of the best ways to uncover previously unidentified health hazards, even if these incidents seem widely spread in time, location, or otherwise unrelated to each other. Spotting these trends is with an advanced safety reporting and analytics on a global scale is the best way to accomplish this.

3. Identify your priorities

For this, you need to evaluate every health and safety hazard identified earlier. For each, ask:

  • What is the potential severity of an incident related to this hazard?
  • What is the likelihood of an incident?
  • How many people might be impacted?

It is quite likely that there are a number of potential outcomes of varying severity for the same hazard. In this case, you’ll want to consider the likelihood and impact for each.

Once you have an idea of the potential impact of each hazard, you can begin to prioritize which should be addressed first. You will obviously want to address the most severe risks first, but keep in mind that all hazards must still be addressed.

4. Develop a hazard control plan

The plan to control hazards comes happens in two ways: an interim solution to protect worker safety immediately, and a permanent solution that is sustainable over the long term.

When it comes to choosing control options, some are more effective than others. From most to least effective, they are:

  1. Eliminating the hazard by physically removing it.
  2. Replacing the hazard with a substitute.
  3. Implementing engineering controls that isolate workers from the hazard.
  4. Implementing administrative controls that change people’s working behaviors.
  5. Making use of personal protective equipment.

Keep in mind that some hazard controls can actually introduce new hazards. Some PPE, for example, can limit mobility. Make sure that you’re thinking ahead so that you don’t accidentally make your environment more hazardous instead of less so.

5. Track your progress

How effective are your controls? Unless you track and analyze safety data over time, you might see the trends and act accordingly. Were controls implemented? Is training up-to-date and happening properly? Was the hazard responsible for any incidents? Did the incident numbers or severity of the hazards decrease? Did any unexpected new hazards arise as a result? This part of hazard management is an ongoing process, and requires the cooperation of all workers in order to be effective.

When you need to gather and analyze health and safety data across a large number of people, simply having experts isn’t enough. You also need the right tools. FirstHand is a perfect example of this. Not only does it provide a fast and intuitive method for reporting hazards, it also helps with analysis, saving your health and safety team an enormous amount of time when it comes to developing solutions. Interested? Request a demo today.