General Safety and Health » Site Conditions

Distant Twister - Photo Credit: iStock-826211134 | Copyright: Graham Moore

Weather conditions contribute to motor vehicle incidents, as well as slips, trips, falls, and other hazardous consequences. Weather also results in lightning strikes, equipment failures, rig collapses (from the wind or wet, soggy soil), illnesses, and other events.

Possible Solutions

  • Ensure that the company's emergency planning and response program addresses these hazards and includes triggers to identify when to stop activities or shut down equipment under specific weather conditions (e.g., wind speed, working at heights, natural disasters, lightning, tornadoes, and other anticipated weather events at the location).
  • Ensure that operating procedures also address potential weather conditions at the site (e.g., frozen lines, heat tracing, heating and/or cooling equipment, screens (for wind), backup generators, tie-downs, tarps and weather screens, wind breaks, snow fences, etc.)
  • Install protective bunkers, shelters, warming areas, and cooling areas as conditions require.
  • Implement weather-warning systems such as lightning detection, wind speed measurement devices, and/or monitoring of national weather service advisories. Phone apps are available for these purposes.
  • Use sunscreen and a hat (hard hat where required) when outdoor sun exposure is high.
Occupational Heat Exposure - Photo Credit (left side): Aaron Sussell, Cincinnati, Ohio | Photo Credit (right side): Elena Finzio

Heat stress results in heat illnesses that can be uncomfortable to fatal. Heat illnesses include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion may be recognized by heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, or slightly elevated body temperature. Heat stroke may be recognized by confusion, seizures, convulsions, hot/dry skin (usually), or loss of consciousness. Left untreated, heat stress may be fatal. Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness and is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention when either heat exhaustion or heat stroke is suspected. Refer to the following OSHA pages for more information:

Possible Solutions

  • Develop and follow a heat stress program.
  • Learn and recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress illnesses, and train workers on how to recognize and respond.
  • Include acclimatization as an important part of the heat stress program to allow workers to gradually develop a level of tolerance to heat.
  • Include frequent breaks in a cool area, combined with increased water intake. Be cautious if fluids other than water are used, as many fluids can actually lead to dehydration or other problems.
  • Consider engineering controls, such as fans or coolers.
  • Where possible, use the buddy system so that workers can monitor each other for symptoms of heat stress and take immediate action.
  • Issue heat stress bulletins and alerts to workers when high heat conditions are forecast.
  • Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. If signs or symptoms of heat exhaustion worsen, or do not improve within 60 minutes, take worker to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation or treatment.
  • Heat stroke is a serious medical condition. When suspected, cool the person and obtain medical treatment immediately.
  • Perform periodic check-ins with employees to ensure their condition.
  • Consider color charts above urinals and toilets as a warning to workers when urine becomes too yellow, indicating dehydration.
  • Perform a RA/HA/JSA and ensure that the RA/HA/JSA considers all hazards and measures needed to eliminate or control all hazards, including heat stress. For example, consider the need for workers to wear FRC when appropriate (i.e., for flash fire protection or for arc-flash protection). The select hazard-appropriate work practices, but also considering that wearing heavy FRC (or FRC over street clothes) can increase the heat load on workers during summer months. When used, wear FRC as the outermost layer.
  • Be cognizant that workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are dehydrated (e.g., drank too much alcohol prior to their tour), are in poor physical condition, or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular disease.

Cold stress can result in trench foot (immersion foot), frostbite, and hypothermia, all of which can have a range of undesirable results, from permanent tissue damage to death. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, confused behavior, disorientation, cold/dry skin, dilated pupils, clumsy movements, slowed breathing, fatigue, and loss of consciousness.

What constitutes cold stress varies, depending on workers' acclimatization to cold weather. As with heat stress, proper acclimatization and clothing are important to reduce the risk of harm to workers. Wet or sweaty clothing can increase the possibility of cold stress. Wind chill can cause cold stress injuries, even when temperatures are above freezing. Refer to OSHA's Winter Weather page under "Cold Stress" for more information.

Possible Solutions

  • Develop and implement a cold stress program.
  • Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of cold stress, and train workers on how to respond.
  • Take more frequent breaks in warm, dry areas. Heat and dry clothing when needed. Provide warm clothing as part of a cold stress program.
  • Provide engineering controls, such as radiant heaters or temporary covers that are appropriate for the location.
  • Monitor workers' physical condition during tasks, especially new workers and workers who are not used to cold conditions.
  • Avoid exhaustion or fatigue. Energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  • If possible, schedule work during the warmest part of the day.
  • Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water or sports drinks), and avoid drinks with alcohol.
  • If hypothermia is suspected, remove wet clothing, warm the person slowly, and obtain medical treatment immediately.
  • Where possible, use the buddy system so that the workers can recognize the symptoms of cold stress and take immediate action.
  • When cold stress is possible, select hazard-appropriate clothing. For example, add layers of clothing that can be adjusted to changing conditions. When used, wear FRC as the outermost layer.
  • Be cognizant that workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition, or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular disease.

Keep well sites clean and orderly (see the Housekeeping section).

Sanitary conditions promote good worker health and well-being. Provide sanitary and clean eating areas, worker quarters, toilets, and potable water on well locations.

Possible Solutions

  • Provide potable water from a public utility where onsite living quarters are used.
  • Where potable water is stored on site, periodically check the water source for chlorine content and microbiological growth.
  • Clean water coolers frequently with a bleach solution.
  • Avoid use of common or unwashed plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Wash hands before eating or drinking.
  • Provide a scoop for dispensing ice.
  • Provide outhouses or other restroom facilities with cleaning stations, and ensure they are kept clean.
  • Change contaminated clothing before entering clean areas, such as living quarters, personal vehicles, eating areas, etc.
  • Ensure that trash cans and other receptacles are emptied periodically to avoid health risks as well as fire hazards.
Figure 14. Mosquitos are a common nuisance and can become a hazard - Photo Credit: iStockphoto

Noxious plants, and harmful animals and insects, often can be found at well sites. Watch out for them to avoid injuries and illnesses.

Possible Solutions

  • Small animals, such as snakes and rodents, have been known to climb into open tubulars. Keep tubulars closed, or elevated on racks, to reduce the risk of encountering one of these animals.
  • Avoid making "pets" of the wildlife at the location.
  • Avoid plant growths on the site. Animals may be concealed, or poisonous plants may be growing.
  • Mosquitos, bees, and wasps can also be troublesome at well sites. Mosquitos can carry various diseases (such as West Nile Virus and Zika Virus). It is important for employers to contact local health departments when insect populations become troublesome.
  • Ticks in some areas can find good hiding places on the body – check regularly for them. Lyme disease can be carried by ticks, especially in certain regions. Brush off clothing after exiting tall brush and weed areas.
  • Use insect repellants and repeat applications as recommended, since effectiveness is time sensitive.