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How to prevent oil and gas injuries and Incidents – Discover 10 safety advices

April 24, 2023

How to prevent oil and gas injuries and Incidents – Discover 10 safety advices

From crush or pinch points to more serious Injuries when working at height or exposed to fire or explosion, the list of potential Oil and Gas Injuries is endless. The working environment of the oil and gas industry (oil-rigs, rafineries, oilfied) has all the conditions to create hazards.

Equipment used in oil and gas extraction, transportation and refinery is subjected to harsh operational conditions: significant variations in temperature and pressure, high vibrations, contact with toxic, flammable and reactive chemicals, etc. This can induce structural fatigue of equipment, crack growth, corrosion, loosening of joint bolts and can result in liquid or gas leaks, fire and explosion.

Be it the design, assembly or maintenance of heat exchangers, flanges, pipes or valves, a holistic approach of safety issues (oil and gas injuries and site accidents) is necessary to:

  • prevent accidents and operator injuries
  • minimize the impact on the environment
  • avoid downtimes that can have a significant impact on the company assets
CDC logo

Despite recent reports suggesting a decrease in occupational injuries and illnesses within the oil and gas sector, the fatality rate still remains 7 times higher on average than for workers in the U.S. as a whole. [1]

So, what are the origins of the main safety hazards in the oil and gas industry and how can safety issues be prevented? Our experts shed some light on the subject of safety.

Safety hazards from working environment, equipment and tools in the oil and gas industry

1. Working environment

ATEX areas

Working in the oil and gas industry often involves working in ATEX classified zones. The presence of non-ATEX equipment or the use of a non-ATEX tool can be a source of ignition of flammable vapors or gases.  

Quality of the air system and hose connections

Pressure control is critical when working with pneumatic tools: an impact wrench used at a non-controlled air pressure, can cause a bolt to break or worst, an overtightening.  It is essential to operate with a dry and lubricated air network under the international standard of 6.3 bars or 90 psi. Using incorrectly sized hoses and poor connections between the tool and the compressor can also cause an accident well known as hose whiplash

Working at height

Working at height is all the more dangerous as the operator has to perform fast-paced and physically demanding tasks with sometimes difficult-to-handle tools (grinder, impact wrench or electric torque wrench for instance). In this case, appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is needed including gloves, safety glasses and shoes, hard hats and fall arrest systems.

2. Equipment

Equipment material or design

Safety issues must be considered from the equipment design phase.  Inappropriate material, design or equipment layout can cause possible corrosion, holes and cross contaminations within the heat exchanger, for example. Special attention should be paid to the selection of strong and durable materials that must feature the mechanical properties and resistance to withstand extreme pressures and high temperatures.

Inspection and maintenance

Insufficiently frequent or inadequate inspections or maintenance techniques can cause a dangerous accident that could have remained at a non-hazardous level if treated in time.

Bolted joint integrity

Loosened bolted joints can result in leaks leading to unplanned shutdowns and potentially to serious injuries. Bolted joints typically loosen because of constant high vibration, corrosion, design errors or inadequate bolting procedures or tools.

Below an example of bolt failure in the Gulf of Mexico

During drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), leaks were detected which identified failure, severe stress corrosion cracking fracture of bolts on the lower marine riser package (LMRP) [2]

Bolt failure in the Gulf of Mexico

Source: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (

3. Tools

Marc CHARPENTIER, National Sales Manager, France @ Chicago Pneumatic

Bolted joints are critical in the equipment chain since they prevent flanges and valves from leaking and guarantee the safety of the equipment and people. That is why bolting deserves a well mastered process with the proper tool and tightening sequence.

Marc CHARPENTIER , National Sales Manager, France @ Chicago Pneumatic


Bolting is a key step of oil and gas equipment assembly and maintenance and, as mentioned above, must be taken seriously to ensure joint integrity. Manual operations can lead to hand related injuries and the use of conventional tools with no torque control option can result in improper tightening, which, through a domino effect, can lead to severe accidents.

Innovative compressed air torque wrenches (nutrunners) not only provide the worker with comfort and safety during the bolting operation but also guarantee an optimized tightening quality for long term safety conditions. One step further, new connected electric torque wrench (nutrunner) solutions exist which enable high precision tightening, repeatability and quality control to minimize the risk of leakage.


Vibrating tools are a real concern when it comes to operator health and safety. Extended use of grinders, for instance, can expose workers to HAVS (Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome). In addition, strong vibrations can cause uneven wear of the grinder disc, creating fragile zones that may lead to it shattering. An antivibration function is therefore essential to prevent HAVS and avoid a critical working situation.

10 Safety advice from our oil and gas experts to prevent Oil and gas injuries

Oil and gas injuries
  1. From the design phase, evaluate all process parameters and update risk analyses whenever process conditions change.
  2. Entrust the task to experienced people that have the skills to do the job right.
  3. Define and implement a detailed tightening procedure specific to the equipment to be assembled or disassembled.
  4. Plan efficient and regular system inspections and maintenance to detect and repair small leakages that could lead to equipment rupture if left unattended.
  5. In an ATEX environment, use only ATEX certified tools and accessories. With an ATEX impact wrench, always choose ATEX certified bronze sockets to minimize the risk of sparks. Be aware that a pneumatic tool is not considered as ATEX unless supplied with an ATEX certificate.
  6. Make sure that a degassing has been performed before any maintenance operation.
  7. Consider using innovative electric torque wrench solutions that provide reliable and accurate tightening.
  8. When using pneumatic tools, make sure that you are working at the right pressure with high quality hoses and connections.
  9. Insert temperature and pressure sensors in strategic zones of the equipment to alert of any malfunction. In the case of heat exchangers, use hydrocarbon detectors to detect the presence of hydrocarbons in the boiler water tank and mitigate the risk of cross contamination.
  10. Prioritize the use of pneumatic tools when operating in confined metallic structures or during material removal processes in humid environments to avoid electric shock with power tools.


Visit OSHA’s website for more information on how to prevent these types of injuries in the oil and gas industry.