Claim rates usually rise as activity increases

The downside of an uptick in oil and gas activity is this: injury rates in young, new employees go up. A lot.

After the 2008/2009 recession, Enform analyzed data from the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board and Statistics Canada. It found that by 2012, the industry’s workforce had increased by 25 per cent (based on person-years). But the injury claim rate had increased by 29 per cent. And the claim rate among workers 15 to 24 years old had soared by 94 per cent.

Young, green employees are twice as likely to be injured on the job as other workers. These workers are usually males and the most common cause of their injuries is being hit by something (struck by an object). A wrench falling from a drilling platform. A pipe swinging from rigging. A pressurized hose uncoupling.

Coaching and mentoring new, young workers in oil and gas

Roots of an injury trend

Several factors influence the safety of young and inexperienced workers. For example, a recent Enform safety bulletin notes young workers are more likely to be:

  • Given tasks beyond their abilities
  • Unaware of the risks associated with tasks they’re doing
  • Unsure of how to protect themselves or others from injury
  • Unsupervised
  • Unfamiliar with safe work procedures
  • Unsure of how or afraid to ask questions
  • Unaware of their rights and responsibilities
  • Overconfident and feel invincible.

With oil and gas activities in Western Canada inching their way to recovery, companies, employers and employees alike are looking for ways to buck the upward trend in injuries.

At Beaver Drilling, such efforts start before an employee is even hired

“We begin during the interview process and explain the Beaver culture to potential employees,” says Jason Blahun, Beaver Drilling’s health, safety and environment manager. “We ask questions about how they would fit into the company. We look for people who would be the best piece in our puzzle.”

New Beaver employees are immediately introduced to the company’s operational policies, equipment, risks, hazards and teams. Mentors (experienced leaders) teach and shadow new, young employees.

“We don’t put anyone in the position where they could miss making a critical decision,” Blahun says. “Great consequences can result from a missed decision and we realize that human factors are errors that can have real risks.”

This knowledge has also led Beaver to add a strong component of mindfulness to its hazardous training for young workers.

“We want workers to be mindful of what’s going on 360 degrees around them,” Blahun says. “You don’t just want workers to set their sights on going from point A to point B in their jobs. You want them to be aware of everything around them.”

In-depth orientation

H2 Safety is a Calgary-based company that builds custom emergency response programs for clients around the world. In the past year it’s hired 16 new employees, 13 of them in the spring of 2017. Every one of them goes through in-depth orientation that includes about 40 hours of mandatory safety training during their first six months on the job. Courses include, but are not limited to H2S Alive, first aid, driver awareness, incident investigation, gas monitoring and hazard management.

New, young employees are typically trained for at least 30 days before going into the field. And they are usually placed into a tech pool (a team of co-workers who share experiences and insights) and work with a coordinator to learn company and industry processes. Following that, they are assigned to work with a project manager.

“It represents a big investment,” says Ryan Groot, H2 Safety’s health, safety and environment director. “But we’re selling emergency management and HSE services so we have to be subject matter experts.”

Groot adds: “To be fair, a lot of our work is administrative in nature, but when we go into the field we are very well prepared.”

In this together

Beaver Drilling works hard to remind existing employees: new, young workers don’t know as much as seasoned older workers.

“It’s like training a hockey player,” Blahun says. You have to welcome new players to the team and develop their skills.

“One of our big improvements is having a team environment: We’re all in this together. And we’re all equal. A new, young employee is just as important to us as a rig manager.”

It may sound cliché, but when workers feel they’re part of a team or family they’re always watching out for one another.

“Teams win games and teams lose games—and the more our people understand that, the better we perform,” Blahun says.

Tips for prepping young workers

Before starting work, ensure young workers:

  • Understand their rights and responsibilities
  • Have been given general and site-specific orientations
  • Have taken hazard assessment training and participate in hazard assessment processes (JSAs)
  • Participate in toolbox meetings and discuss young worker risks, such as being struck by an object injuries
  • Know the risks of hazardous energy.

Employers can also reduce the risks facing young workers with programs for:

  • Supervisor training and support
  • Coaching (assign a buddy/mentor to new workers)
  • Worker observation and intervention
  • On-the-job training for young workers; competency
  • Stop work, line of fire and no-go zone (restricted access areas) awareness and training.

Employers can also plan ahead by looking at the past. Taking the time to review internal injury data, specifically total claim rates for younger workers can provide insight into weak spots. Doing so will go a long way in identifying where to amp up safety training in order to provide an environment that is safe for young workers.

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  • Philip Kevin

    Thanks for nice article.