5 Dangers of Working on an Offshore Oil Rig

Offshore oil rigs are a dangerous place to work, with 79 incidents leading to 92 fatalities between 2015 and 2016. The most dangerous area of all is the red zone, or the area where metal drill pipe is connected and lowered into the ocean.

The red zone is where the oil rig drills into the ocean floor in an attempt to strike oil.

Roughnecks in the oil field have many responsibilities, and one of these responsibilities is trying to remain safe in the red zone.

The dangers of the red zone include:

1. Falling Objects

Falling objects are common on oil rigs. When drilling begins, it can cause vibrations that result in speakers or lighting falling. Loose brackets or components can also fall. Workers that do not secure their tools, especially when working above the drill floor, can have their tools fall, including:

  • Grease guns
  • Hammers

Even the elements, primarily the fierce winds outside of the rig, can cause vibrations that lead to objects falling inside the red zone.

Dropped objects can cause injury and fatality, but they also pose a serious risk to critical equipment on a rig. If items fall on equipment, it can pose a safety risk to everyone on the oil rig and the entire operation.

2. Hand Injuries

Hand injuries can happen whenever a person is using power tools, hydraulic grips or rip tongs. The tools can easily catch a person’s finger or hand, causing significant injury. Proper safety measures in the workplace and protocols can prevent these hand injuries from occurring.

3. Fall Injuries

Falls are common in any workplace, but they’re even more deadly when a person is working on the derrick. The derrick can become slippery due to:

  • Oil
  • Mud
  • Water

Anyone working on the derrick can slip and fall. There is also the risk of the drill floor being wet or slippery.

4. Fires and Explosions

Fires and explosions are another major concern on an oil rig. Due to flammable gases, these fires and explosions can lead to death or severe burning. Luckily, fires and explosions are less common on oil rigs than other injuries due to strict safety measures.

The workers that work near these gases are also at risk of being injured from harmful levels of:

  • Diesel particulate matter
  • Airborne silica

A worker may have severe irritation of the eyes, lungs and skin due to these materials.

5. Equipment Accidents

Equipment malfunctions or accidents can occur. Heavy machinery and drills are used on oil rigs, and while rare, there is a risk of crushing or a person falling into the machinery. Equipment malfunctions can occur, or drill operators may not be able to see workers working below, posing a serious safety risk to all those involved. While maximum precautions are often taken to ensure that any equipment risks are mitigated, unexpected events can occur. This is why it is important that servicing of all heavy machinery is done on a regular basis, and any replacements or spare parts are obtained from reputed providers like Costex Tractor Parts that have experts with the know-how of such machines and equipment, and can therefore provide robust parts with minimal risk of accidents.

AI and other technologies are also being deployed that can help prevent these types of equipment malfunctions. Human error also plays a role in many of these accidents, and AI can help provide alerts or alarms to prevent these accidents from occurring.

Common Injuries Sustained on Oil Rigs

Oil rigs may be dangerous, but companies are working to incorporate safety protocols and measures to keep workers safe. Despite all of the safety measures being taken, the following injuries often occur on rigs:

  • Brain injuries are common, including TBI, skull fractures and lacerations.
  • Spinal cord injuries, whiplash, broken vertebrae or accidents to discs in the neck and back can occur.
  • Bone breaks and fractures are common as well as dislocations.
  • Burns, including first-, second- and third-degree burns can occur, leading to scarring and blistering.
  • Bruises, punctures and cuts can occur as well as chemical burns.

In extreme cases, workers may lose limbs, fingers or toes. Soft tissue injuries can also occur, including the tearing of muscle and tendons. Sprains and strains are common, too.

The prevalence and severity of offshore injuries has led to many advancements in the field. Robots are starting to be deployed to enhance rig safety. The red zone is the deadliest place on earth to work, and following the death of a worker crushed to death, technologies have started to be developed to make the red zone safer.

Lidar, a technology used to map the earth’s surface, has been deployed along with artificial intelligence to monitor all movement in the red zone. With the use of Lidar, it’s possible to know the location of all workers and detect potential safety risks.

The systems are able to set off alarms, which stop operations to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring.