Staying Safe Offshore During the Winter Months
Certain risks are increased for offshore oil workers during the colder winter months. According to data from the World Offshore Accident Dataset (WOAD) of DNV, accidents in the North Sea—where natural daylight can occur as little as four hours a day during the winter—saw a slight uptick during the winter season. It may be surmised that other offshore workers face similarly increased risks. It is important to be aware of these risks and to mitigate them as much as possible. We’ve covered some of the top ways to stay safe offshore during the winter months.
Dangers Facing Offshore Workers in Winter
Offshore, weather can create major problems for workers. While offshore platforms are typically designed to withstand hurricanes, and most storms cause early evacuation and halting of procedures. This is not always the case, however, and injuries can and do occur in extreme weather scenarios, even with all of the equipment and meteorological forecasting technology available now. Snow and ice can create slippery situations. Fast, powerful winds can damage equipment and cause injuries. It’s important to be aware of the dangers and of the standards and regulations established to protect you.
Safe Management of Portable Masts During Winter
Organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Society of Safety Engineers, among others, has set recommendations for protecting oil workers who work outside. One of the top winter accident causes identified by the API is failures in portable masts. The report stated that the risk in raising or lowering portable masks is increased because steel changes its characteristics in low temperatures. The API set out a number of safety standards that would allow normal operations to take place even in extreme cold.
For managing portable masts in winter, the API recommends, among other factors:
- Schedule raising / lowering times for masts at the warmest hours of the day
- Check wind velocity
- Utilize practice methods to warm the mast such as the application of high pressure steam at attachment points
- Loosen mast raising lines for assurance of flowing, unhindered movement
- Warming up engines prior to use
- Examining all machinery and ensuring it is in good working order with no malfunctions that could cause the mast to suddenly stop or jar
- Once mast travel has begun, keep it slow and steady
Basic Safety Tips for Offshore Workers in Winter
It is important to take care of your health during the winter, which includes such basic but important guidelines as:
- Eating well – Lack of sunshine and fresh fruits and vegetables can lead to insufficient nutrition and vitamin deficiencies during the winter months. Consider taking a daily vitamin, and try to eat foods fortified with Vitamin D such as dairy products, whole grains, and salmon and other types of fish.
- Dressing warm – Pay attention to your body and to the temperature and wind chill factors. Take time to dress warm, cover exposed skin, and protect your core body temperature when working.
- Be prepared – Make sure that you know the regulations that apply to you and are designed to protect your safety.
- Protect your mental health – An article entitled “Situation Awareness & Safety in Offshore Drill Crews” by Anne Sneddon, Kathryn Mearns, and Rhona Flin reported that weather conditions were thought to negatively affect the mental health of offshore workers, particularly in the North Sea platforms. In turn, depression and seasonal affective disorder could cause a decrease in care, attentiveness, and awareness at work—which could lead to dangerous accidents and injuries. Take steps to take care of your mental health, and be aware of the warning signs of depression as caused by lowered light exposure. The article cited good communication, experience at work, and personal responsibility as three factors helpful in addressing awareness problems caused by depression.