Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

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Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing eTool

Transportation Vehicle Operation at the Well Site


Safety issues with vehicles and equipment also arise at the well site. For example, heavy equipment is moved on the well pad, and mobile equipment, such as wheel loaders and telehandlers, are used for various tasks.

Potential Hazard:

  • Struck-By or Caught-Between. There will be many people on the well pad, and a lot of heavy equipment moved until it is all properly in place. This will involve backing heavy equipment with the potential for vehicles to strike other equipment and/or people working behind the equipment, out of the driver’s sight.

Possible Solutions:

  • Always use at least one land guide when moving equipment on the well pad. Follow standard hand signals from the land guide and move the equipment slowly. Land guides should not walk backwards while guiding equipment as they could trip and the equipment back over them. The guide should stop the unit, move carefully to a new spot, and then continue to guide the driver. Continue in this manner.
  • Conduct a pre-move job safety analysis (JSA) between the land guide, driver, and all others involved in the movement to agree on where the piece of equipment will be located and to avoid miscommunication.
  • Use land guides from your own company. Avoid guides from other companies who may be unfamiliar with your company personnel and procedures.
  • Require land guides to wear high visibility clothing and lighted flashlight wands at night.
  • Check that backup alarms are functioning, and sound the horn before backing up.
  • When parking vehicles, park so that the first movement is forward.

Incident Examples:

When reviewing these incidents consider which of the Possible Solutions listed above could have prevented the incident.

  • The crew was rigging up for drilling operations when a swamper was fatally backed over by a welding truck. At the time of the incident, the swamper was helping a winch truck driver move mud and water tanks. The swamper was assisting in the horizontal rigging of the tank to winch equipment, and had positioned himself along the storage tank being winched. At the same time, a welding truck was in the process of moving past the winch truck operations. At some point during the two simultaneous operations, the swamper stepped backwards into the path of the welding truck as it was backing. The welding truck ran over the swamper.
  • During rig up of a drilling rig, a worker went to the tool trailer to get bolts needed to install a floor plate. The worker was struck by a tractor being used as a forklift. The tractor was backing up and turning to the driver’s right. The left front tire hit the worker and knocked him down. He was caught under the forks and was dragged approximately 20 feet.
  • A worker was kneeling down using a vacuum hose to vacuum up mud from the drilling rig containment area after it had been released due to a pump failure. The worker was run over by an end loader that was backing up.
  • A worker stepped out of his truck to talk to another worker. His truck started rolling forward and he ran to the front of the truck to stop it. The worker slipped and the truck ran over him.

Potential Hazard:

  • Workers struck by equipment.

Possible Solutions:

  • Audible back up alarms and horns should be present and functional.
  • Use spotters for maneuvering around the well site.
  • Train operators and workers on the ground to recognize equipment blind spots.

Potential Hazard:

  • Overloading the rated capacity.

Possible Solutions:

  • Train operators (both classroom and practical) on the specific equipment type and its functions/limitations.
  • Operators must wear a seatbelt.
  • Ensure operators perform a pre-operational check of the equipment before beginning operations.

Potential Hazard:

  • Falls when entering and exiting the elevated cab.

Possible Solutions:

  • Ensure operators maintain three points of contact while entering and exiting the cab.
  • Keep steps and shoes clear of mud, snow, and debris.
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