Ask anyone with a profession in the oil industry, and they will tell you that it is a hard and hazardous job at even the best of times. As a result, there are plenty of equipment pieces and protective clothing items every oil worker needs before they even so much as step foot onto the oilfields. Using these correctly minimizes the danger of the work and shields employees. If you intend to work in the oil industry, you should read about the most important pieces of equipment to get your hands on here.
Common Hazards Encountered
Before we begin covering the personal protective equipment (PPE) that oil workers need, let us stress the importance of such equipment by defining the various dangers oil workers can face when on the job.
To begin, oil workers can encounter various gases and fumes when working with crude oil and petroleum that are horrendous for their lungs. The wells that workers operate around expose them to hydrogen sulfide gas. This gas gives off a strong rotten egg smell and can irritate the eyes and lungs. Moreover, it other effects include apnea, convulsions, weakness, irritability, and more. Some people may even enter comas due to this gas. Due to the nature of oil work, there is cutting, sawing, drilling, and other processes that break up sand, rock, and similar materials. These cause another respiratory hazard to appear. It is crystalline silica, which goes into the air in the form of microscopic particles that are easy to inhale. It increases the workers’ risks of developing diseases like silicosis, lung cancer, kidney disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
More immediate problems include physical injuries from falling or becoming caught in machinery. Flash fires that reach up to 1900 degrees Fahrenheit and last upwards of five seconds are also dangerous. They’re more than enough time to cause serious damage to a person. Hard labor, such as the process of drilling, can result in permanent and lasting damage due to something as seemingly innocuous as vibrations.
PPE for the Head
Your head and face can be highly vulnerable when working with oil and gas. Thus, OSHA requires that employers provide workers with eye protection to shield them from flying particles, molten metal, and potentially harmful light radiation. Such eyewear also blocks out hazardous, caustic, and acidic liquids and fumes. Safety glasses with side shields protect workers best from flying particles, while impermeable goggles are ideal for working around liquids, gases, and vapor hazards. In addition to safety goggles, face shields akin to what welders use are also vital to have on hand. They better protect workers from flying debris, caustic fumes, and hot temperatures or sparks.
Of course, as with all industrial settings, workers must have hard hats and helmets that protect them from physical trauma. Injuries from falling objects or overhead equipment that workers might bump into are almost as common as injuries from falls. Lastly, a piece of protective clothing that every oil worker needs, but many people often don’t consider, is ear protection. The equipment can become incredibly loud, and prolonged exposure will eventually damage the hearing of workers. It can cause problems like tinnitus and even outright deafness.
PPE for the Body
After protecting your head, you’ll need to protect your two most valuable tools—your hands. Your hands are so essential that OSHA is very particular in recommending employers select appropriate oilfield work gloves carefully. These should be perfectly suited to an oil worker’s duties and environment. To this end, you must carefully consider the performance construction characteristics of work gloves to protect workers in each capacity optimally. Leather, canvas, and fabric are good for protecting hands from dirt, abrasions, cuts, and heat. But they aren’t as effective when dealing with liquids or chemicals as materials like neoprene, nitrile, vinyl, and rubber. To protect works from crushing and vibrations, though, you’ll need to invest in specialized gloves.
Like hands, feet need adequate protection. Durable boots can prevent them from crushing forces, sharp objects, and liquids that would otherwise soak in and cause fungal diseases like trench foot. Suitable boots also stop workers from slipping and falling by providing stable traction. Key features of safety boots include steel or impact-resistant toes and slip-resistant soles with a strong grip. For workers working with chemicals, boots should be made of neoprene or nitrile like their gloves. Additionally, if electrical hazards are present, rubber boots are necessary to absorb any shocks. On the other hand, welders may find it helpful to wear leather leggings above or over their boots to protect them from sparks or molten metal that can spray onto them.
PPE for Visibility
You’ll often see workers wearing brightly-colored jumpsuits or reflective vests as they work. These help them keep track of each other, especially when operating heavy machinery or using equipment that could potentially hurt someone in the vicinity. It’s a team effort to protect each other from the hazards of the oil industry. They must also be able to properly coordinate and be aware of each other so that there aren’t any accidents due to human error or negligence.
As we’ve touched upon, there are plenty of respiratory hazards that oil workers may encounter through the daily processes of oil and gas production. In a scenario with unsafe atmospheric conditions, an employer is responsible for providing respirators to every worker. Beforehand, every employee must receive tests and medical examinations to ensure that they can use a respirator safely. After their medical examination, employees must undergo extensive training to use their respirators properly. They must also learn how to inspect and maintain the respirators.
Air-purifying respirators use cartridges designed to filter airborne particles or chemicals in vapors like acidic gases. Common safety masks are typically insufficient in such industrial settings. While they may be able to block dust and sand, they will definitely not be able to protect their wearers from acidic vapors and chemical fumes. On the other hand, in a scenario where the problem is a lack of oxygen rather than airborne contaminants, workers will need to know how to use and operate atmosphere-supplying respirators. These include tanks or generators of clean air.