26th April 2019 by Amanda Coniglio
Pipeline work is dangerous! Oil and gas pipeline construction workers’ (pipeliners) on-the-job fatality rate is 4.3 times more than the national average for other industries, with an all-time high of over 7 times greater in 2014. Additionally, their rates of serious injuries sustained on the job remain among the highest in the nation– with rates increasing as pipeline work increases.
When you hear “pipeline safety”, unless you’re a pipeliner, you might not realize what all that entails. Pipeline Owners/Operators, as well as the various Pipeline contractors, subcontractors and vendors are all required to comply with strict regulations that include the development, administration and documentation of an Operator Qualification (OQ) plan in order to ensure the safety and integrity of pipelines. The requirement of this plan is intended to provide an additional level of safety to protect workers, the environment, and the general public.
Operator qualification ensures that all workers on-site have been adequately trained to recognize and react to abnormal operating conditions that can occur while performing specific tasks. Each task has a set “span of control” that sets the number of unqualified individuals to the number of qualified individuals per task (these numbers vary for each specific task and can also vary between Owners/Operators).
However, and here is where that “additional” piece is highlighted, it is of extreme importance that pipeline safety is not JUST the Operator Qualification Rule, workplace safety needs to be a priority, as well as, proper site safety at a pipeline facility/job site will ultimately prevent accidents, property and equipment damage by identifying unsafe actions and conditions and correcting them before an accident occurs. On top of a solid OQ plan, Owners/Operators, contractors, subcontractors and vendors need to develop, administer, and adhere to an effective workplace Health and Safety Program (commonly referred to as a Safety Manual, Safety Management System, Accident Prevention Program, Corporate Health and Safety Manual, etc.) that addresses all hazards, potential and actual, that could be encountered on the job. From that program, site specific safety plans should be developed for each job-site.
Some safety Items that should be consistently addressed by company leadership include (but are certainly not limited to): safety training (separate from OQ); proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE); hazardous materials, heavy equipment safety; general housekeeping; proper use of hand and power tools; adherence to trenching, shoring and excavation standards; heat stress and cold weather safety.
Always remember, when you and your employees are safe they are more productive and their work is of higher quality! Be a part of a solution and make safety on the job-site a top priority and you will contribute to a lower incident and accident rate in the pipeline industry.