Importance of Health and Safety Officers in the oil and Gas Industry

Safety is the MOST important Assignment or PRE-OCCUPATION for EVERY PERSON on an Oil and Gas Installation and rightly a significant core value for the oil and gas industry. One SLIP and a whole lot of investment and LIVES could be lost at great cost to the enterprise. So in an Oil and gas environment SAFETY is not what some people do, it is what EVERYBODY does. In any oil and gas environment SAFETY is a CULTURE and not an option.

 It is and will always be the Industry’s primary focus, and the workers who serve on the frontlines of operations play an essential role in ensuring safe work practices and preventing workplace incidents and accidents.  Each worker at a worksite has a duty to work in a safe manner and must make safety a part of each and every task.

Because it is such an important responsibility management of oil and gas enterprises ensure as a matter of TOP MANAGEMENT responsibility to recruit competent personnel as Health and Safety officers to superintend Safety. It is debatable whether the success or achievement of the business objective of an oil and gas operation itself is as important as the achievement of planned safety objectives. When the Oil and gas business objective is not met an enterprise loses money invested, but if the Safety objective is not met, irreplaceable lives could be lost in addition.

Best practice safety regimes give everybody peace of mind required to achieve the set business objectives of productivity, schedules and profits etc.

Safety Planning and implementation is a deliberate process and the safety officers are basically saddled with the primary responsibility of GUARANTEEING that all operations are carried out in such ways and manners as to prevent accidents and injuries to ALL PERSONSS and in a safe and secure environment.

Depending on the complexity of the operations some specialization is required in the different aspects of production. You could have Fire Safety, Production Safety, General Safety, Work environment Safety specializations and so on.

The Safety officers have the overall responsibility of any oil and gas operations and therefore carry a heavy burden so when Safety Officers appear intransigent and impossible to negotiate with on any issue in their work environment other employees should understand that it is because of the responsibilities they bear and we list some of them hereunder for better understanding and cooperation of all employees in order to continue to keep themselves safe. It is in enlightened self-interest to follow their directions and instructions.

Responsibilities of A Health and Safety Officer

  • Assurance of not only the health and safety regulations, but professional training to be given to all the employees associated with the organization: The scope of a health and safety officer varies depending on the size and complexity of the company. It can include training employees in the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), fire safety, emergency procedures, using machinery properly, handling hazardous materials, and other safety-related issues.
  • Assuring that inspections related to the safety and health of the organization are scheduled and take place: All equipments in use, including extinguishers, fire alarms, etc. should be properly placed and working. Safety inspections, risk assessments and lone working procedures are managed and employees are aware of their responsibilities. Proper working equipment and tools used properly will deliver the assignments safely and to the specified quality. Inspections, Maintenance and or repairs are required to be aligned with the Equipment manufacturers’ specification in order to deliver the desired results safely.
  • Investigating incidents in the workplace and writing-up accident reports: Another important role of the health and safety officer is the investigation of any incidents that occur in the workplace. They record and maintain an incident and accident log book, review possible causes, and recommend changes when required. Alternatively, the health and safety officer may serve the safety committee to fulfill the demands of the company’s safety program. The committee relies on the officer’s expertise and the officer reports progress on safety issues.
  • Providing guidance on safe equipment use, the safe installation of new machineries and review of daily operational tasks and issuing work permits for them.
  • Advises management on how to deal with the handling and disposal of hazardous substances as their improper handling and or disposal has direct health implications on employees. The Safety Officers always ask for Material Safety Data Sheets that stipulates how chemicals of any nature are handled, stored and disposed of. Disposal is important because if harmful chemicals or wastes from operations are carelessly disposed of in the environment, it could run into ground waters etc. and get ingested at some point.
  • Enforcing Health and Safety Laws and Regulations: An internal health and safety officer focuses on accident and illness prevention and implements the latest regulations and guidelines, including those of the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Act. Health and safety is a highly specialized and regulated field and a company health and safety officer must have the expertise to do it well. A good health and safety officer looks beyond managing the basics and instead actively manages risk.
  • Principal Contact: Since a health and safety officer stays abreast of current regulations, they’re the logical choice to advise management and the go-to contact for workers. They are also the principal contact for safety inspectors and union representatives. The health and safety officer also address issues of concern to the public. Sound environmental and sustainability policies and procedures can improve public relations, reduce a company’s carbon footprint, and improve profitability. A knowledgeable, personable health and safety officer is the ideal candidate to interact with outside parties to ease concerns and bolster company reputation.
  • SECURITY- Operational locations and movements to and therefrom sometimes pose external threats to workers as happens in Nigeria. External Safety threats to employees and their installations from the larger operating environment become an added responsibility that must also be considered. Security challenges add a whole complex set of considerations and required awareness that a safety officer must become conversant with in order to not only keep his employee colleagues safe within the installations but also during travels from and to their accommodations and sometimes even during their recreational activities.

Every organization is bound to fulfill the compliance related to the health and safety of the employees and every individual associated with it. This is not specific to any particular industry, but some industries are at higher risk due to their sensitive production processes which involve risky tasks to be performed by the employees.  The tasks for which a health and safety officer is associated is highly important and valued in the oil and gas industry, organizations that do not take reasonable precautions to prevent workplace injuries and illness can be found negligent and can result in costly workers’ compensation claims, higher premiums, hefty fines, a damaged reputation, and injuries, illnesses, or even death. Good health and safety saves lives and is an integral element of every business, making the role of the health and safety officer one of the most important within the workplace. In the Oil and Gas industry operational environment for instance it is doubtful if any activities could ever take place without the presence of a Safety officer.

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