How to overcome the risks of working at heights

Oil and gas training is crucial for employees to remain safe while working at heights. But what additional systems can businesses implement?

Posted on Categories News, Safety

The oil and gas industry is among Australia’s most hazardous sectors, with the risk of onsite fatalities ever present for many businesses. According to Safe Work Australia (SFA) statistics, mining – which includes oil and gas extraction – activities resulted in 12 worker deaths in 2015.

The industry had the fourth highest number of fatalities last year, with only construction; transport, postal and warehousing; and agriculture, forestry and fishing considered more dangerous.

If previous measures have become insufficient or poorly applied, businesses must revise their methods.

One of the biggest risks in oil and gas and other hazardous sectors is the potential to fall from height. A 2013 SFA report revealed there were five deaths in mining between 2008 and 2011 due to falls, which was the third highest fatality rate across all industries.

So what can oil and gas businesses do to manage these risks? Organisations are responsible for delivering as safe a work environment as possible for employees, and they should implement comprehensive measures to prevent accidents.

Offer the appropriate training

There are many oil and gas training options available to firms and employees who want to brush up on their work health and safety knowledge. Harness Training, for example, provides one-day courses that cover a range of issues that help people recognise potential hazards, use the appropriate equipment and gear, and achieve relevant competencies.

Successful participants will receive a statement of attainment, and while these courses are typically designed for onshore drilling activities, the lessons learned are transferrable to roles in other sectors.

Identify potential hazards

SFA has issued an approved Code of Practice in alignment with Section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act, which outlines best-practice procedures for managing the risks of falls from height.

Organisations should regularly inspect the workplace to identify hazards, giving particular attention to potentially unstable surfaces or structures, sloping or slippery areas, unprotected open edges and holes or pits.

Technical specialists, such as structural engineers, may be necessary to evaluate the integrity of certain infrastructure, including load-bearing capacities.

Oil and gas safety training.
Falls from height are a serious problem in many industries

Gauging the risk

Every workplace contains risks that could potentially lead to accidents and injuries – or worse. However, businesses must assess these hazards and rule how severe they are, the likelihood of a problem occurring and what actions would be required to mitigate the risk.

For example, businesses should consider:

  • The height of elevated areas
  • Lighting adequacy and general visibility
  • Inspection and maintenance processes for scaffolding
  • The impact of weather
  • The condition of ladders, rails and safety gear
  • The quality of staff oil and gas training

These are a few of the factors businesses should take into account, but a full risk assessment will likely be far more comprehensive in order to deliver effective results.

Managing risks and reviewing measures

Once companies have identified and assessed risks, they must implement the right measures to prevent accidents. The Work Health and Safety Regulations list a number of ways that businesses can protect against falls from height, which are ranked in order of effectiveness through the ‘hierarchy of control’.

Organisations should introduce measures that best mitigate fall risks, and in some cases may require a combination of different options to keep workers safe. It’s important to continually review the implemented controls to ensure they continue to do the job correctly.

If previous measures have become insufficient or poorly applied, businesses must revise their methods. This may require returning to a previous step to appropriately identify and assess risk levels.

Would you like to learn more about work health and safety in oil and gas environments? Please talk to a member of the team at Harness Training to see what courses and qualifications are available to optimise the wellbeing of your employees.