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How to Minimize Hand Injury Risks in the Oil and Gas Industry

by Joe Geng on April 19, 2016

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oil and gas industry, worker in close-ups with giant fuel-storage tanks, sunset time
 

Safety awareness is critical. So is the protective gear that oil and gas workers choose.

Despite heightened worker awareness and improved training efforts by employers in the oil and gas industries, the volume of hand injuries keeps going up. It’s a trend that’s been viewed as permanent because of the nature of the work and inherent risks in nearly every job.

Approximately half of all injuries in oil and gas have historically been hand/finger related, according to Shahram Vatanparast from Occupational Health & Safety magazine. But the scary truth is that at times, that number can spike up to nearly 80 percent.

With so much at stake and the prevalence of these risks, prevention through education, PPE, and better workplace technology is the winning combination to keep workers in the Oil and Gas industry safer.

workmen on oil and gas drilling rig
 

Few industries have as many opportunities for serious hand injuries at nearly every turn. That’s why it’s so important to take the necessary steps to minimize these risks.

Hand and Finger Injuries Outweigh Every Other Type

The dangers of working in Oil and Gas aren’t a secret: the hazards are well known, and industry safety standards reflect that fact. But what might not be as obvious is the sheer volume of hand and finger injuries compared with all other recorded incidents. By and large, hands take on the most risks and suffer the most abuse.

According to the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), hand and finger injuries account for a much greater percentage than any other category. The U.S. land totals were nearly 40 percent in 2015, with a combination of other injuries, such as head, back and torso, making up the remainder of recorded events. The U.S. water totals for 2015 were worse, at nearly 45 percent.

Most Oil and Gas companies have a hand and finger safety campaign in force. Educational posters on site and worker training create an environment of awareness, which helps — especially with more seasoned workers. The IADC reports show that after 5 years in the industry, worker incidents drop off significantly.

However, awareness and experience only do part of the job. To combat the ever-increasing tally of injuries, companies need to approach safety from the inside out by minimizing the possibilities of risk instead of only providing protection. If protection fails, the worker is subjected to the hazard’s full brute force.

Initiating Several Approaches at the Same Time is Best

There’s no single way to prevent hand injury in the workplace. Every little bit helps, but a more comprehensive approach is necessary. It can’t be “one and done,” because long-term awareness drops off if it’s not a part of every workday. More successful programs include not just safety training, but ongoing education to keep workers informed and tuned in to the risks that come with working in the Oil and Gas industries.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equally important. Gone are the days of plain cotton gloves, says Vatanparast. Better technology and sophisticated materials can lessen the effect of impacts, punctures, cuts, and other risks without adding a new hazard of reduced worker dexterity.

Taking the steps to reduce the risks also involves removing as many hazards as possible. This might mean safer equipment and a heightened awareness of areas with greater potential of injury. But another approach — and one that’s gaining momentum — is a hands-free system where workers can either use tools to move hands a safer distance from harm’s way or let automation handle some of the most dangerous tasks.

For example, an “iron derrickman” takes the worker out of the danger zone, letting him operate the equipment remotely, says Vatanparast. The “top drive system” achieved the same remote-worker goal, but both introduced new hazards of their own. Where the equipment operator isn’t hands on, other workers in the area are at risk of collision injuries.

oil-gas-industry-stack-factory-pexels-large

Advanced PPE Gives Workers a Better Chance

Unfortunately, the best protective gear (such as high-tech work gloves) can’t create a safe workplace on their own. Attention to reducing hazards must be the first step in a meaningful hand protection safety campaign. But what they can do is give workers a protective buffer – often a significant one – that reinforces good habits and safer equipment.

The condition of your work gloves is also just as important as the physical act of wearing them. Shockingly, the U.S. Department of Labor explains in their regulations, “Personal Protective Equipment for General Industry,” that a stunning 70 percent of workers who sustained a workplace hand injury were not wearing protective gloves. And, of the 30 percent who were wearing gloves, the PPE was “inadequate, damaged, or the wrong type for the type of hazard present.”

While gloves can’t work if workers don’t wear them, wearing subpar gloves isn’t really a better option. That’s why we have a wide range of gloves that offer protection against the myriad hazards of working in the Oil and Gas industries. Some offer impact protection. Some protect hands against cuts, punctures, and abrasions. And, some styles even offer a combination of all of these different types of protection.

Vatanparast suggests that one way to get workers on board with good safety glove habits is through surveying workers, and then implementing a glove trial program. Trials — such as the one we offer here at Superior Glove — let workers see and feel how a glove should work when it’s in action, instead of merely trying it on for size. And, it also gives the company valuable feedback, which helps with providing the best quality glove that the workers are most likely to enjoy wearing.

Although there’s a good chance that the Oil and Gas industries will probably never be called “100% safe,” by assessing the dangers and risks and forming a multifaceted, comprehensive safety program, you can help make your workers much safer while they’re on the job. Part of that requires education plus the commitment to taking a good, long look at the hazards that exist and determining whether new machinery and practices might mitigate at least part of them. And, part of it also involves giving workers the most sophisticated work gloves available on the market.

No one relishes the idea of wearing work gloves that don’t fit and make the workday even harder than it already is. Fortunately, we have something for practically everyone. Want to outfit your workers with the best gloves for your industry — gloves that they actually won’t mind wearing while they’re in the workplace? Contact us today to set up a free glove trial; we’d be happy to help you find a hand protection solution that works for you.

Request a free glove audit from our glove experts today.


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