Chris Garrels is Superior Glove’s Territory Manager in Texas. Having worked in the industry since 2011, Chris has visited his fair share of oil and gas companies.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the hazards that Texas oil workers face on a daily basis. We sat down with Chris as part of our expert interview series to discuss PPE challenges, anti-impact glove trends and how the attitude towards safety has changed in the oil and gas industry.
There is so much going on in the oil and gas industry, how do you recommend gloves?
Large drilling contractors understand the importance of glove selection and pick the glove appropriate for the job, so having options and different styles is important. A worker in Alberta obviously wouldn’t be using the same glove as someone in Texas during winter months.
I split it up this way:
There’s the guys working on the rigs — actually doing the drilling. Then there’s everyone else
The workers on the rigs want Clutch Gear® anti-impact gloves. They want cut-and-sewn, heavy-duty style gloves with the PVC patches [for added grip]. They don’t want palm-coated products because they don’t last long enough.
On the pipelines, workers seem to prefer cotton palm-styles of the Clutch Gear® anti-impact gloves. The cotton soaks up the oil so that their grip won’t be affected. They end up going through 2 or 3 pairs of gloves a day but at least they’re wearing their PPE.
Grip is important in most jobs but is it even more important in oil and gas?
It’s a necessity. If a worker can pick up a 50 pound wrench covered in oil and it doesn’t slide out of their hands then the glove has sufficient grip.
How would you describe the approach to safety in the oil and gas industry?
Oil and gas companies have a vested interest in keeping workers safe. If a worker is injured it may result in a lawsuit, so these companies are very selective about hiring.
Potential employees undergo physical fitness tests that include lifting tests to minimize the risks of injury in the field. They are also very selective about who they hire, fewer rigs leads to more competition.
They also seek workers in the upstream segment [the exploration and production sector] that understand the unique language used on the rigs to describe events, equipment, and professions… little steps to make the job go more smoothly, reduce downtime and minimize injuries.
Was safety always looked at this way?
Not entirely. In 2010 anti-impact gloves became commonly used for drilling in the oilfield.
Part of the struggle was to educate safety professionals in the oilfields about why they shouldn’t just buy the cheapest pair of gloves. Companies had to realize the value of spending more money to better protect their workers.
Even though the initial cost was more, the benefit was a reduction in hand injuries and a reduction in liability due to these injuries. When we started incorporating D3O® into the back-of-hand protection, it was the next big step in the evolution of hand protection for drilling gloves.
How do you think gloves made with D3O® anti-impact technology will change the oil and gas industry?
Oil and gas has some of the biggest hazards for hand crushing and if you can get a glove that gives 54% better impact protection than what’s currently on the market, it’s a game changer. High quality anti-impact protection in oil and gas is the difference between a trip to the hospital with a broken finger and the ability to continue working.
What is the most challenging aspects of glove selection?
Cut resistance is always tricky for oilfield gloves and talking about the differences in cut testing methods causes most people’s eyes to glaze over.
Companies that have minimum cut level requirements need to clearly state which standard they are referring to and demand their suppliers clearly label that on the gloves because there is a huge difference between North American and European standards.
What hand protection was used prior to the introduction of anti-impact gloves in 2010?
Thirty years ago most workers on drilling rigs didn’t have a choice for gloves. Here in Texas, they were issued a pair of black PVC-dotted cotton gloves. These gloves were only available in a few sizes and didn’t stretch so they were really uncomfortable.
Until recently, it was uncommon for anyone to ask for cut-resistant gloves when working on a rig. Most companies now implement minimum cut and puncture standards, however, most hand injuries occur when someone isn’t wearing gloves.
Companies take hand safety seriously and some even have requirements that gloves are to be kept on when the employee is going to a vending machine to get a new pair of gloves… so touchscreen compatible gloves are also pretty important.
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