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Oil and Gas Safety: Evolving Needs for a Complex Industry

Oil and gas producers require training tools specific to their safety and risk management needs.

Engineer working on laptop

November 1, 2022

Upstream oil and gas producers walk a perpetual tightrope in terms of managing risks, protecting employee safety and maintaining training regimens necessary for carrying out extractive activities while minimizing environmental impacts.

As in other industries, environmental, health and safety (EHS) tools and technologies have emerged to provide more flexible training and e-learning options in the oil and gas sector. However, companies in these sectors require highly specific safety considerations when it comes to designing effective training programs. In addition, oil and gas companies face challenges including fragmented regulatory requirements, high staffing turnover and financial risk considerations that render one-size-fits-all training tools and approaches inadequate.

Below, we examine key challenges and risks that oil and gas producers must address to facilitate adequate training and education for their employees. We also discuss key features and functions companies may want to look for in third-party training software and platforms. 

Safety and regulatory issues driving oil and gas safety training demands 

Several issues drive the need for more robust and comprehensive safety training for oil and gas companies.

Many oil and gas producers are experiencing significant staffing challenges. As labor markets remain tight, many firms are hiring more employees with little to no experience in oil and gas exploration or production activities. These higher numbers of inexperienced staff exacerbate the need for employers to implement more comprehensive safety training measures. Plus, oil and gas companies often rely on contract and temporary workers in their field and offshore operations, but still must meet environmental and workplace safety requirements and obligations despite having high-turnover workforces.

Effective training programs support safer work environments and help reduce safety incidents for full-time employees as well as temporary and contract workers. Such programs must target safety hazards, including risks of falls and injuries, explosions and fires, and high-pressure lines that can pose serious dangers to workers.  

In addition, oil and gas companies operating in multiple jurisdictions or offshore regions often need to meet fragmented, sometimes disparate regulatory requirements to conduct business. In such circumstances, companies need robust and often tailored training tools to help their employees understand complex compliance requirements and how those requirements impact work and operations. A producer’s compliance obligations involve the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Act, as well as regulations the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issues. Depending on where an oil and gas company operates, the producer can face additional environmental and/or safety requirements from municipal or regional agencies. 

Beyond compliance and risk mitigation, companies can also leverage robust safety training programs to establish stronger safety cultures applicable to both full-time and contract staff. 

Insurance and financial risk considerations 

Another important factor driving the need for more comprehensive safety training programs at oil and gas companies involves insurance and financial risks. A producer’s safety incidents and reports can directly impact the rates they pay for workers’ compensation and other insurance; without this insurance, many companies cannot fully cover costs arising  from employee injuries or other incidents. 

Companies must also account for lost productivity following employee injuries or environmental incidents and the direct and indirect costs of related insurance claims. To illustrate this point, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides an online calculator that estimates the full impact of a single employee injury on a company’s bottom line. 

For example, according to the OSHA tool, a single burn injury can result in the following costs for an employer: 

  • Direct cost – $47,192 
  • Indirect cost – $51,911 
  • Sales to cover indirect cost – $1,730,373 
  • Sales to cover total costs stemming from incident – $3,303,433 

The more insurance claims an oil and gas company files due to workplace injuries, the higher the producer’s insurance premiums. High claim rates and insurance costs drive up a producer’s operational costs, potentially putting it at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to winning new contracts and business opportunities. 

As a result, oil and gas companies have substantial financial and compliance incentives to implement safety training programs. Given the multiple safety, environmental and financial factors producers face, what does a highly effective safety training program look like? 

How UL Solutions can help support oil and gas safety training  

Again, few off-the-shelf options exist for oil and gas companies seeking external safety training, tracking and reporting systems. For both on- and offshore oil and gas operators, establishing training programs that address  the full scope of workplace safety, national and multinational environmental compliance, and related operational issues often requires developing and maintaining extensive training materials and standard operating procedures.

To support oil and gas companies and augment the depth of their internal training processes, UL Solutions has developed industry-specific environmental health and safety (EHS) training courses. These courses target risks specific to upstream oil and gas operators, such as confined space operations, heavy machinery, and combustible and flammable materials. 

Accessible at any time online and on demand, UL EHS e-learning courses for oil and gas safety help companies move beyond minimal compliance with standards and regulations to instilling leading safety practices that  improve job performance and workplace safety. Specific courses cover a broad scope of issues such as: 

  • Breaking containment 
  • Continual risk assessments 
  • Crane operations and rigging practices 
  • Preventive health and medical management 
  • Short-service and contract employees 
  • Simultaneous operations (SIMOPS) 
  • Stop work authority (SWA) 

In addition, UL Solutions’ EHS industry advisers and certified safety experts can develop customized training programs based on an oil and gas company’s specific safety and compliance requirements. 

A customer’s existing learning management system (LMS) can host oil and gas safety training courses, or trainees can access them through UL Solutions’ PureSafety® training system in cases where producers do not have their own LMS installed. Designed with a commitment to safety training at its core, PureSafety® provides preconfigured and customizable LMS functionality for companies needing intuitive, comprehensive tools to manage training programs and gain visibility into employee training progress and performance. 

Conclusion: One size fits none 

Oil and gas companies have not been well-served with off-the-shelf safety training and learning management systems as EHS issues have taken on more urgency across the industry. When evaluating training programs and software systems on offer from third-party providers, companies need to consider features such as scope, accessibility and flexibility: 

•    How many safety and compliance factors does the training system in question cover?  
•    How easily can full-time staff and contract and temporary workers access training resources?  
•    Does the technology leave room to customize training modules to fit a company’s specific risk profile?  

Oil and gas safety entails many moving parts, with added layers of complexity in terms of regional, national and international compliance requirements that can change rapidly. Training employees effectively with foundational EHS training programs to help build  more safety-centric business cultures with a commitment to move beyond basic compliance are crucial steps for oil and gas companies to mitigate risks and protect revenues. 

Related resources

Safety Training for the Oil and Gas Industry

PureSafety® Learning Management System

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Advisory Services