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OFFSHORE OPERATIONS--A SPECIAL ENVIRONMENT

When working offshore on either drilling rigs, production platforms, jack-up rigs, or semi-submersible rigs, workers are faced with many different factors that increase their exposure to injury. This exposure increases even more during travel to and from offshore rigs. It is important that employees be alert to potentially dangerous circumstances, and take precautions that will lessen their risk of injury. Some of these potentially dangerous hazards are:

Poor Weather Conditions - Unlike many other jobs, weather conditions directly effect the safety of offshore work. Wet, rainy weather may cause a construction company to halt a project, but not offshore operations. Work must go on! Everyone must adapt to weather conditions and continue with normal procedures. And, when you're in the middle of the ocean on a multilevel platform with limited space, both weather and work can become dangerous:

The surface of most offshore rigs is metal grating, which can become slippery when wet. High winds and driving rain can also reduce a worker's visibility and balance when working out of doors, leading to trip and fall injuries.

Limited Space/Confined Work Quarters - Limited work space frequently increases exposure to accidents. Under these circumstances, equipment, machinery, and other workers create a potential for bumps, bruises and contusions, and striking injuries to the body. Four or five different contractors may be working on a rig at the same time. Everyone must be aware of other crew members and avoid doing anything that will cause injury to others. For example, cooks in restaurants usually have adequate room to operate, but offshore galleys are often very confined. To avoid accidents, cooks and galley hands must be cautious when working with knives, heat and flame in these "tight" quarters.

Fatigue Factor - For most people in the workforce, a normal week is forty hours. Not offshore! These workers may put in more than eighty hours during one week. With twelve hour workdays, fatigue is inevitable and the potential for accidents and injuries increases. A sufficient amount of sleep (at least eight hours for most people) is required for a person's body to rest and recuperate. During rest breaks, workers should also replenish their system with lost fluids.

Potential for Violence in the Workplace - Most employees spend only about eight hours a day with co-workers. Not offshore personnel! They not only work twelve hours with other employees but also eat, sleep, and relax in close quarters with these same employees, regardless of their degree of friendship. Too much "togetherness" can lead to tension, disagreement and personality conflicts between people. For everyone's sake, there should be no tolerance for fighting or violence in offshore work environments--and all employees must be made aware of this.

All employees must stay alert! The items just mentioned only scratch the surface of the many exposures to injury during offshore operations. Others hazards include blowouts, fires, hazardous chemicals and gases, and piping pinch points. New employees may not appreciate the potential dangers of this environment. Experienced workers may take this jobsite for granted and become careless. All employees need to be educated and trained to consistently work with care and caution. Working with caution doesn't mean slower production, it just means safer production!

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