Health and Safety in the Oil and Gas Industry – You Know the Drill or Do You?
Accidents will happen’ is a phrase that is commonly used in any walk of life but as anyone who works in the oil and gas industry knows, there are a lot of accidents just waiting to happen on a daily basis. Long shifts working with heavy machinery and equipment, sometimes in extreme weather conditions that are physically and mentally demanding causing tiredness which can lead to subsequent carelessness and injuries. But most site accidents can be avoided by maintaining constant awareness and vigilance, and the correct planning and preparation will do much to keep operators safer. There are a number of basic precautions to be taken of course, such as assessing any potential hazards before starting a job and thoroughly understanding and testing the operation and maintenance of all equipment; one of the most important measures is also to pay careful attention to the use of proper personal protective equipment. Protection for eyes, hearing, feet, hands and head are vital but it is just as essential to make sure that two other very important parts of the body are not ignored – the knees, one of the most complex biomechanical structures we have.
The knee is not a simple hinge joint, it is in effect both a sliding and hinge joint. It slides backwards and forwards (anterior and posterior translation), allows a degree of rotation as well as hingeing (essential in the last 15 degrees of extension to lock the knee when standing). The sliding motion of the femur on the tibia is essential for effective function
Many operators in the oil and gas industry or in any occupation that involves spending any length of time kneeling, may underestimate the amount of long-term damage they could be doing to their knees, ultimately adversely affecting their mobility and even future finances through being unable to work.
Our knees support the majority of our body weight and allow us to stand, walk, run, climb stairs, kick, crouch, sit, and stand up again. For workers who spend a great deal of time kneeling, or crawling in confined areas, the phrase, “Our knees are our feet!” is appropriate. As a result, workplace injuries to knees are not uncommon.
It is said that one knee injury is attributed to about 24 days away from work. Each knee is made up of the three main leg bones (femur, tibia, and fibula) and the knee cap (patella). Cartilage helps lubricate bone movement along with fluid-filled sacs called bursa, which cushion direct impacts to the knees. If the tendons and ligaments that hold the knee components together become weak or damaged, the bones can become misaligned, resulting in pain or injury.
- Raising the work off the floor;
- Designing the space so that you or your employees can work from a seated position instead of a kneeling one.
- Positioning materials that can be grasped and moved above the knees so there’s no need to bend the knee to retrieve or lift the item.
Kneeling or squatting for extended periods places a lot of pressure on knee joints. It is important to relieve that pressure by moving the joint through its full range of motion: bending, stretching, and flexing the knee and leg at regular intervals. This activity helps the knee’s shock-absorbing tissues to better distribute the synovial fluid thus improving lubrication of the joint and reducing the risk of injury. Dirty clothing and knee pads can result in skin infections for people who spend a lot of time on their knees so make sure work trousers and kneepads are kept as clean as possible.
Constantly moving around on knees without the correct protection can cause friction which in turn can lead to skin abrasion from internal shear forces within the knee surface. These forces are extremely destructive and damaging to tissue and can lead to impaired blood flow, pain, tissue breakdown and pressure sores.
Excess body weight is not surprisingly an added risk factor so maintaining a healthy weight is a good idea all round!
If it is at all practical, move and change postures frequently – static postures, including kneeling or sitting for long periods, or the sustained operation of foot pedals, decrease blood and nutrient flow to the tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bursa.
The key precaution to preventing knee damage and often as a result, skeletal injury is to choose the correct type of knee pad. Over the last few years a great deal of research has been undertaken into the design and construction of this specialist item of PPE. Redbacks Cushioning Limited has been very successfully selling their SATRA award winning Redbacks (non-foam/non-gel) knee pads which feature a soft and flexible TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) leaf-spring set within a unique honeycomb matrix; this ‘Redbacks Cushioning Technology’ distributes body weight evenly, elevating the knees to relieve back pain and reduce pressure on knee, leg, ankle and foot joints, whilst minimising the risk of possible injury from sharp or penetrating objects. In effect, the knee pads adjust themselves to the amount of force applied meaning that each kneepad is individual to its own user.
CEO of the company, Cliff Lockyer, says: “Based on the fact that there are currently over 104,000 annually registered knee replacement operations in the UK alone, 50% of which are accredited to occupational hazards, in the next 10 years the total figure will exceed over a million people in the UK, many of whom will have damaged knees through inadequate protection whilst kneeling. In addition to the unnecessary pain and suffering, both the employed and the self-employed risk losing their income through injury, and the prospect of litigation will be a real threat to employers for not providing the best possible safety measures for their employees”
K & L Ross, based in Aberdeen, which is one of the largest PPE and workwear suppliers to the gas and oil industry consider that knee protection should be taken very seriously, so much so that the company have recently adapted their bestselling Red Wing flame retardant coveralls to incorporate the CE approved Redbacks Kneepads on the inside of the garments.
For more information visit www.redbackscushioning.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 01327 702104