About 1.9 million U.S. workers are at risk of head injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Thousands of workers experience head injuries, and every year 125 die as a result.
Common head injuries in the oil and gas industry involve unexpected contact with objects and equipment during the course of a normal workday. In a seven-year study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), head injuries were primarily due to equipment malfunctions and falling objects.
Head injuries include three primary forms of severe damage:
- Brain damage
Each of these types of head injury involves lifelong, irreversible effects that may have been limited or prevented through safety precautions. Let’s look at how oil and gas companies can take proactive steps to prevent head injuries through protective headgear and safety training.
Head Protection is a Priority
Hard hats are the first, best defense against head injuries. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1926.100 and CFR 1910.135 require that protective headgear or hard hats should be worn by anyone working in areas that have falling or flying objects, risk of impact, and potential for electrical shocks and burns.
This certainly includes offshore rigs, oil refineries, and crews that handle oil transport and transfer. Of the 9 most common non-fatal injuries in the oil industry, 5 are related to head trauma: lacerations, fractures, concussions, brain injury, and paralysis.
Hard hats prevent these injuries through a combination of penetration resistance and shock absorption. They are also resistant to electrical shock and impenetrable to chemical corrosives commonly handled in the oil and gas industry.
The Importance of Training
While protective headgear is crucial, it’s useless if workers don’t wear it. That’s why proper training is just as important as providing hard hats.
Head safety training programs must cover:
- What type of headgear should be worn in specific areas
- During which time periods, exactly, it must be worn
- How it should adjusted for a proper fit, including brims, ear bands and chin straps
- What the limitations of the headgear are, including instructions on hard hat classification labeling
- How to maintain and store headgear correctly
- Guidelines for inspecting it and disposing of it when necessary
Making Head Safety a Priority
Research shows that the biggest safety risk in the oil and gas industry is complacency— becoming lax over time because everything seems okay. A low probability of injury doesn’t mean no probability. Head injuries usually occur suddenly, on what seemed like a regular day.
Constant vigilance is important. This is accomplished through structured, ongoing safety training. For new workers, training should be rigorous and take place before the first minute of work. For long-term workers, training should come frequently in the form of reminders and check-ins to demonstrate ongoing compliance.
The American oil and gas industry is actually one of the safest sectors in the U.S., but individual operations are safe only if safety training is a priority. Make it a priority for your operation and ensure the safety of your workers.
These head injury prevention tips come from Zeteky, a leader in oil and gas industry safety software. Contact us for a demo and see how Zeteky can minimize the risk of head injuries at your operation.