When It Comes to Drilling Rig Safety, Play It Smart
If you’ve ever done anything stupid — I mean really stupid — raise your hand. I’m not talking high-school party, keg-stand stupid. I’m not talking Vegas-keeps-its-secrets stupid. I’m talking safety stupid.
Go ahead, raise your hand. It’s not my place to judge here.
We’ve all acted careless and reckless when rushing through a job. Maybe you’re one of those guys who thinks hard hats don’t make enough difference to bother wearing. Maybe you notice something potentially unsafe after remobilizing the rig for the fourth time one day, and you brush it off thinking, “I’ll just be careful.” Maybe you’re 25 and you think it’s OK to lift more than you probably should to get the job done, because it’s quicker and you can at that age.
Attention to details — like safety — moves up and down throughout the day. When it’s late in the afternoon, and you’re thinking about getting home to have dinner with your family or how good that beer will go down after work, we can do stupid things in the name of getting done for the day and moving the job forward. But allow me to introduce you to a concept that applies here: stupid lucky.
Stupid lucky. Let that roll around in your head for a minute. I bet you already know what I’m talking about. That guy who seems like either Superman or a nine-lived cat. He is truly care-less. He hasn’t been hurt on the job, but not for lack of a complete disregard for his long term well-being. When an accident happens, he’s always just to the right or left. He’s “lucky,” he thinks. And he isn’t more careful because he’s been lucky and that luck makes him think it’ll never happen to him.
But it will. Most veteran drillers have seen it happen. Stupid lucky becomes stupid unlucky, just add time. Let me repeat that for emphasis: The only difference between a stupid lucky driller and stupid unlucky driller is time. One always becomes the other. That time could be a distracted blink of an eye. That time could be a decade of careless lifting before that one day you bend over to lift a bag of bentonite and can’t straighten back up.
So, what’s the solution? I recently attended the National Drilling Association’s 2015 convention outside Baltimore. I heard Chuck Valenta of Terracon speak and later interviewed him for this issue (page 10), which focuses on safety. He told me that, often, young rig operators want to try to work faster than they can think. We need to reverse that. Slow down, pay attention to safety. Check out your surroundings. Stop looking at your smartphone during the morning safety tailgate meeting. Walk the site. Twice, if you have to. Yes, it’s all about getting the job done. But if someone on the crew is being reckless and, yes, stupid, and gets hurt, it puts everyone at risk. Not only do lost-time injuries slow down the job at hand, they also put at risk a company’s chances of getting that next big job.
So, do your coworkers, your supervisors, your company, yourself and your family a favor: Don’t be stupid. Challenge yourself to be more safety conscious. Challenge yourself to not work faster than you can think. Set an example for coworkers, especially younger drillers, to follow.
Oh, and if you work with one of those stupid lucky guys, don’t be afraid to call him out on it. If his time comes, unlucky has a way of hitting the fan and spattering those nearby.
What do you think? Have you had a sobering near miss? Do you know a driller who seems to have nine lives when it comes to accidents? I love to hear stories from the field (with names changed to protect the innocent, of course). Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe out there, drillers.