Have you ever seen a photo of a person (typically male) hanging with one foot off of a ladder that’s suspended over a stairwell? I usually get a chuckle from these photos and compilations of videos of poor decisions, and they are literally are all over the internet. Go ahead and image search “Unsafe Work” and I promise you at least 5 minutes of amusing entertainment.
As hilarious as some of these photos are (and we all hope that everyone survived), there are only a few seconds of planning or lack of planning that separate every job in our industry from being one of these memes or ending up on the “Bakken fail of the day” facebook page. A goal that I hope none of us have...
A funny epitaph I’ve heard in the oilfield is “Only the Strong Survive”. In our industry, this statement always gets a laugh. This is because oil and gas work field work is tough, and there are a lot of ways to do it wrong. When I was in the field, there was very little talk of “We can’t do it that way,” Or, “Is that safe?” Unless it was followed by uproarious laughter. All of my bosses at that time had grown up in the field, and had been farmers or ranchers before that and were unconcerned with safety procedures. In part, because they KNEW how to do the job without getting hurt. Repetition and decades of training had given them a sixth sense about how to make sure they went home at the end of the day, even if they didn’t want to. The people joining the industry now, however, don’t share the same background, and need to be given tools and resources to make sure they do, survive.
Another age old industry move is to let new personnel “figure it out”. While a little bit of hazing can be fun (if you’ve ever been asked to find the v-door on a drilling rig, you know what I’m talking about), running people off that don’t instantly get it is a thing of the past. Back in the 80’s, and prior to them, if someone got hurt, it was typically viewed as “their own fault”. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing it the wrong way, or just plain out of common sense. This was in some regards due to the experience a lot of those individuals had. In our time, and in the new oilfield, people left to train themselves only cause a liability to themselves, and to the rest of us.
Oil & Gas work isn’t going to get any easier, the hours any shorter, or the time away from family any tougher. In these ways, our industry does create some of the hardest working people on the planet. Remember though, that as an industry, we need to provide training and skill transfering, if we are going to build the next generation of oilfield professionals.