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Alice Hamilton Awards: Research Updates for 2011 - Educational Materials

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The US oil and gas extraction industry has an elevated occupational fatality rate. More than 800 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on-the-job in the US since 2003, resulting in an annual occupational fatality rate of 27 deaths per 100,000 workers, which is 7 times higher than the fatality rate for all US workers (during 2003-2009). Previous NIOSH research found that workers employed by drilling contractors were three times more likely to die on the job than workers employed by operators - the companies that own (or lease) the right to drill and extract the oil and gas.

During our field studies, and through our industry partners, we learned that the drilling rig is one of the most hazardous operations in the oil and gas extraction industry. According to the International Association of Drilling Contractors' (IADC) incident surveillance system, the rig move is the second most frequent injury-producing activity in the drilling industry. During 2004-2008, IADC members reported 1,932 injury incidents during rig moves, 16 of which were fatal. No other drilling activity resulted in more fatalities among drilling contractors. The drilling rig move includes all of the activities involved in disconnecting and disassembling an oil and gas drilling rig and its components, loading all of the equipment onto trucks, transporting the equipment to the next well site, and reassembling and reconnecting the rig and its components. During a rig move, there are dozens of workers and vehicles at the well site including representatives for the well owner, the drilling rig crew, and the workers and trucks hired to move the rig. In the industry, the rig move is often referred to as "controlled chaos" because of the number of workers and vehicles at the well site at one time. The rig move occurs in any kind of weather, as often as every eight days.

This video product features workers identifying the major hazards encountered during a rig move and describing ways to avoid those hazards. The use of workers speaking in their own words makes this product compelling to oil and gas extraction workers because they can relate to what they see and hear in the video. We did not use a script or solicit specific responses from the workers; all of the workers' comments are their own. So that the video represents the industry overall, we collected footage in two regions of the country and in austere conditions, including a blizzard in Colorado. All of the footage in the video is our own and was shot on location during actual rig moves.

Move It! Rig Move Safety for Roughnecks was developed by a diverse team and is the result of effective collaboration with safety and health experts in the oil and gas extraction industry. In 2008, the authors developed two short DVDs (NIOSH publication numbers: 2009-108d and 2009-109d, respectively) that were very popular with the industry. We have distributed nearly 3,000 of those videos to 150 companies in 26 states and 5 countries. Based on the quality of the two previous video products, Devon Energy contacted NIOSH and proposed the development of a video product focused on rig move safety. Devon Energy provided us with access to their well sites, their employees, and their contractors for the development of this video product. Several other companies, Bandera Drilling Company, EnCana Oil & Gas, McVay Drilling Company, Patterson UTI Drilling Company, and Sterling Crane also provided us with unrestricted access to their worksites and workers for the development of this product. This video product makes a significant contribution to improving safety in the oil and gas extraction industry by targeting the drilling rig move.

This video also represents a major contribution to the oil and gas extraction industry because it was developed as a training product specifically for this industry. There are very few training products available that have been developed specifically for this industry, none on the topic of rig move safety. As a result, most oil and gas extraction companies are forced to adapt training products that were developed for other industries and tasks. By shooting at well sites, identifying the hazards that workers encounter during a rig move, and by featuring oil and gas extraction workers, we have developed a product that workers are much more likely to watch and remember. We have distributed nearly 2,500 copies of the video since its release just over one year ago.

When the rig move video was released, we heard from drilling contractors across the country that we had only told one half of the story. While the roughnecks (the rig workers themselves) were the ones who take the rig down and put it back together, it is the trucking crews who are responsible for moving the drilling rig, and they face an entirely different set of hazards. Therefore, we partnered with industry again and created a companion video, "Move It! Rig Move Safety for Truckers" that describes the hazards encountered by trucking crews during a rig move. Industry partners volunteered their sites and their crews for this project, and when the initial video was ready for review, experts from numerous companies offered their services as technical reviewers. The new video is expected to be released in mid-2012.

  • Page last reviewed: April 26, 2012
  • Page last updated: April 26, 2012
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