Performance in the oil and gas industry


Managing hazards for effective and sustainable business

Everyday, the oil and gas industry must contend with an array of health, safety and environmental concerns throughout the range of operations. In the face of increasing regulatory oversights, as well as increased public scrutiny, companies need to implement effective safety management systems to help protect their workers, the general public and their environment. An industry is confronted with the challenge of establishing specific systems, programmes, and processes to manage and monitor activities that affect their performance. Safety Management System (SMS) supports safety sustainability and business performance throughout the life cycle of a company’s assets.

From the deepwater offshore platforms to on-shore oil and gas production facilities Safety Management System (SMS) helps to:

  • Comply with increasing and evolving regulatory demands
  • Minimize operational risks for various hazards
  • Improve reliability in remote, high risk environments

The afore mentioned needs/ issues constitute effective and sustainable business performance. One of the greatest threats to effective and sustainable business performance however is exposure to hazards in the work place.


Workplace hazards can come from a wide range of sources. General examples include any substance, material, process, practice, system etc that has the ability to cause harm or cause adverse effect to a person under certain conditions.


Workplace hazards also include practices or conditions that release uncontrolled energy like:

  • An object that could fall from a height (potential or gravitational energy)
  • A run-away chemical reaction (chemical energy)
  • Entanglement of hair or clothing in a rotating equipment (kinetic energy)
  • Contact with electrodes of a battery or capacity (electrical energy)


A common way to classify hazards is by categorization. These include:

  • Biological (bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, birds, animals, and humans etc)
  • Chemical (depends on the physical, chemical and toxic properties of the chemical).
  • Ergonomical (repetitive movements, improper set up of works station, etc).
  • Physical (radiation, magnetic fields, pressure extremes (high pressure or vacuum), noise, etc,
  • Psychological (stress, violence etc).
  • Safety (slipping/tripping hazards, inappropriate machine guarding, equipment malfunctions and breakdown).


The first step in managing hazards in an establishment is to put in place a hazard control programme.

A control programme consists of all steps necessary to protect workers from exposure to a substance or system, and the procedures required to monitor worker exposure and their health to hazards such as chemicals, materials or substance or other types such as noise and vibration. A written workplace hazard control programme should outline which methods are being used to control the exposure and how these controls will be monitored for effectiveness.

Each control programme should be specifically designed to suit needs of the individual workplace. Hence, no two programme will be exactly alike.

Choosing a control method may involve:


  • Evaluating and selecting temporary and permanent controls
  • Implementing temporary measures until permanent (engineering) controls can be put in place
  • Implementing permanent controls when reasonably practicable

For example in the case of a noise hazard, temporary measures might require workers to use hearing protection. Long term, permanent controls might use engineering methods to remove or isolate the noise source.

Some hazards and their controls will be specifically outlined in legislation. In all cases, the employer has a duty of due diligence and is responsible for taking all reasonable precautions, under the particular circumstance to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace.

In situations where there is not a clear way to control a hazard, or if legislation does not impose a limit or guideline, the employer should seek guidance from occupational health professionals about what is the best practice or “standard practice” when working in that situation.

Remember, a legal limit or guideline (such as exposure limit) should never be viewed as a live between “safe” and “unsafe”. The best approach is to always keep exposure or the risk of hazard as low as possible.


The main ways of controlling a hazard include:

  • Elimination (including substitution): remove the hazard from the workplace
  • Engineering Controls: Includes designs or modifications to plants, equipment, ventilation systems, and processes that reduce the source of exposure
  • Administrative Controls: Controls that alter the way the work is done, including timing of work, policies and other rules, and work practices such as standards and operating procedures (including training, housekeeping, and equipment maintenance, and personal hygiene practices).
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Equipment worn by individuals to reduce exposure such as contact with chemicals or exposure to noise.

Whether the operations involve pipelines, tanks or terminals, there is need for a system that will assist the oil and gas company to:

  • Comply with key regulations
  • Extend the working life of aging assets
  • Maintain asset security and reliability
  • Develop worker competency

Regardless of the location of the process operations, there is need to:

  • Identify and manage HSE and security risks
  • Comply with HSE regulations
  • Reduce production disruptions and loss of market
  • Optimize operations due to economic pressures and tight margins
  • Develop strategies to cope with aging infrastructures and workforces
  • Manage organizational challenges

An institution of sound and result oriented hazard management system will certainly guarantee effective and sustainable business performance in the oil and gas industry. WAM

DR. UDEME UDOFIA is a serving lecturer at the Faculty of Science, University of Calabar, Calabar, Cross River State, NIGERIA He can be reached at these contact details