In this, the third installment of our ‘Safety alert!’ series, we’ll be looking at a situation where poor communication, and a failure to follow procedures, almost cost a worker his hand.

The situation Snubbing unit

While the crew of a single drilling rig was running back into the hole, a die fell out of the die block of the Iron Roughneck.

A young floorhand was sent to inspect and then re-attach the die into the die-block, and in the meantime the other members of the crew performed a Measurement While Drilling (MWD) survey. Based on measurements taken, the driller decided that a minor correction was needed, and that he could effect it by engaging the Iron Roughneck and gradually releasing top drive pressure.

The driller came out to mark the pipe, and didn’t see the floorhand, so he assumed he was finished and he recommenced drilling.

While the driller was busy watching his screen, the floorhand returned to the Iron Roughneck to install a new die. The Iron Roughneck closed and crushed his hand.

Never assume!

The floorhand in this incident learned a painful lesson about the importance of procedures and protocols. It’s likely that this team thought they were working well together, and looking out for each other, but that wasn’t enough. Here’s what went wrong:

  • The crew didn’t follow standard lock-out procedures, including the isolation and physical lock-out of equipment under inspection or repair.
  • The driller, who was operating the equipment, failed to visually confirm that no one was in the field of operation of the Iron Roughneck when he engaged it.
  • The use of the Iron Roughneck for releasing top drive pressure is not a standard, documented and approved procedure.

What we learned

There are several things that the crew should have done in this situation, each of which would have contributed to a safer operation:

  • A basic risk assessment should have been undertaken to identify the hazards.
  • When the die fell out of the die block, a new risk assessment should have been conducted to ensure that everyone understood the situation and the hazards.
  • Greenhands should always be monitored, and if they’re new to a task they should not work alone until they are familiarized with the equipment. They should also receive adequate training on tasks and safety procedures.
  • Any unofficial procedures should be properly analyzed and documented.

Above all, proper communication would have ensured that everyone knew what everyone else was doing and why. When a crew is working cooperatively, accidents like this are completely avoidable.

You can read the full report in this safety alert: ‘Worker’s hand crushed in Iron Roughneck’.

Why you should care about safety alerts

Every time an incident happens on a job site, there is a lesson to be learned, and that’s why we publish safety alerts. They’re a great way for us to share those experiences, and help spare others from making the same mistakes. It’s also why we encourage our members to share their own experiences by submitting safety alerts.

You can learn more in ‘5 things you should know about safety alerts’ – and make sure you check out the other posts in this ‘Safety alert!’ series.