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April 24, 2023
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:
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. 
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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) 
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.
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.
Visit OSHA’s website for more information on how to prevent these types of injuries in the oil and gas industry.