At GRIPPS, we understand that the oil & gas industry has unique regulatory and operational requirements. Our team is dedicated to helping businesses in every industry achieve their goal of Zero Drops, so to assist site workers at offshore drilling platforms in building stronger safety practices, we’ve prepared this article outlining the specific ways that the risk of dropped tools manifests in your environment and what you can do about it. Read on and start building a safer workplace for you and your team.

A serious risk to offshore workers

Offshore drilling rigs are industrial spaces, and as with any industrial space the risk of injury from dropped tools is very real. Similar to any other work environment, there’s no safe way to drop a tool on an offshore installation. Terrestrial incidents involving tools weighing less than 500 grams dropped from below five metres have had life-altering and fatal consequences, and the risks are only heightened in the dynamic and fast-paced environment of an offshore rig.

Since 2005, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) – the Australian Commonwealth statutory agency responsible for regulating the health and safety aspects of offshore oil and gas operations – and its predecessor agency have been issuing alerts on safety improvement issues and individual incidents. Their archive of these alerts indicates that dropped tools are a key safety risk and of significant concern to regulators.

In the period since NOPSEMA began providing this service, 67 alerts have been issued. Of these, no fewer than nine alerts – or roughly 13% of all alerts – make reference to incidents where the potential for injury through dropped tools or objects exists (Alert numbers: 8, 19, 29, 31, 54, 56, 59, 65 and 67).

A more specific response

As far back as 2013, the issue became pressing and constant enough that NOPSEMA issued a special factsheet specifically addressed the risk of dropped objects on offshore drilling rigs. Safety Alert 56 noted the increased number of dropped object incidents – up from 13 in the entirety of 2012 to 9 in the first three months of 2013. It identified six root causes of dropped object incidents on offshore drilling rigs:

  • poor design of equipment
  • work procedures followed incorrectly
  • wrong procedures used or no procedures used
  • dropped objects not anticipated and factored into the planning for the work
  • lack of training, lack of instruction, lack of understanding of the task, and
  • preventive maintenance issues.

Underlying all of these causes is a fundamental underestimation by management personnel and safety officers regarding the risk that dropped tools pose. This risk is heightened by the unique operating environment of an offshore drilling rig.

The construction and mechanism of operation of an offshore drilling rig makes dropped object incidents both more likely to occur and more likely to injure as compared to the environment of a terrestrial warehouse or other industrial facility. Factors such as corrosion from sea water, vibration from drilling operations, high winds and the dynamic movement of operating equipment contribute to a heightened risk of dropped object incidents on offshore installations.  

The cutting-edge of offshore safety

With so many factors to account for within the diverse environment of an offshore drilling operation, the need for an effective solution to dropped tools that works in a variety of circumstances is clear.

Traditional solutions such as guardrails, kickboards and debris netting are not as effective in the dynamic and fluid environment of an offshore rig. Corrosion can make guardrails and kickboards weaker and more prone to failure, while high winds and waves can increase the diagonal travel of falling objects.

What’s required is a system that stops accidents before they start, effectively removing additional factors such as wind and structure movement from the equation.

GRIPPS offers just such a solution. Our range of dropped tool prevention equipment stops incidents before they start. Don’t rely on the partial coverage of debris netting or the uncertain structural integrity of a guardrail – GRIPPS offers a complete solution for all tradespeople and technicians working at heights. Our tool tethers arrest falling objects before they leave the owner’s control, ensuring that the risk of injury isn’t just mitigated, but eliminated.

Contact the GRIPPS team today on at sales@gripps.com.au and find out how we could equip your offshore operation with the tools needed to stay truly safe.