Our friends at the National Drilling Association offer some very prudent advice for safety issues involving the transporting, loading and unloading, and off-road movement of drill rigs.

Courtesy of George E. Failing Co.

The importance of safety to drilling contractors simply cannot be overstated. With any issue, there are main, central points that receive the bulk of the attention, leaving somewhat peripheral - but no less important -points in the background. Let's not make that the case with drilling. Safety concerns for drillers cannot begin and end with the work on or around the drill rig; while that often is stressed -and deservedly so - there are many more areas to be addressed.

This article looks at safety issues involving the transporting, loading and unloading, and off-road movement of drill rigs. Our friends at the National Drilling Association (NDA) offer some very prudent advice for these situations, much of which should be second nature to an experienced, safety-conscious driller. But we all can fall into bad habits occasionally, and, as previously mentioned, safety cannot be overemphasized, so we present to you NDA's guidelines.

Transporting a Drill Rig

When transporting a drill rig on and off a drilling site:

  • Allow only licensed individuals to operate the vehicle. Comply with all federal, state, local and DOT regulations.
  • Know the traveling height (overhead clearance), width, length and weight of the drill rig (with carrier), and know the highway and bridge load, width and overhead limits. Allow adequate margins and make sure they are not exceeded.
  • Never move a rig unless the vehicle brakes are in sound working order.
  • Allow for mast overhang when cornering or approaching other vehicles or structures.
  • Be aware that the canopies of service stations and motels are often too low for a drill rig to clear when the mast is in travel position.
  • Watch for low hanging electrical lines, particularly at the entrances to drilling sites, restaurants, motels or other commercial sites.
  • Never travel on a street, road or highway with the mast (derrick) of the rig in the raised or partially raised position.
  • Remove all ignition keys when a drill rig is left unattended.
  • Do not permit passengers to ride on the drill rig.
  • Driving equipment with a high center of gravity, such as a portable drill rig, requires special precautions, especially in turning and stopping. Allow for the increased and higher weight by slowing down while turning and allowing for more stopping distance.
  • Know where your helper or oiler is at all times. Do not move the drill if they are not in sight.
  • Know and use proper signals when moving a drill. Establish signals in advance of operations.

Loading and Unloading

When loading or unloading a drill rig on a trailer or a truck:

  • Use ramps of adequate design that are solid and substantial enough to bear the weight of the drill rig with carrier, including tooling.
  • Load and unload on level ground.
  • Use the assistance of someone on the ground as a guide.
  • Check the brakes on the drill rig carrier before approaching loading ramps.
  • Distribute the weight of the drill rig, carrier and tools on the trailer so that the center of weight is approximately on the centerline of the trailer and so that some of the trailer load is transferred to the hitch of the pulling vehicle. Refer to the trailer manufacturer's weight distribution recommendations.
  • Secure the drill rig and tools to the hauling vehicle with ties, chains and/or load binders of adequate capacity.

Off-road Movement

Follow these procedures during off-road movement:

  • Before moving a drill rig, first walk the route of travel, inspecting for depressions, stumps, gullies, ruts and similar obstacles.
  • Always check the brakes of a drill rig carrier before traveling, particularly on rough, uneven or hilly ground.
  • Check the complete drive train of a carrier at least weekly for loose or damaged bolts, nuts, studs, shafts and mountings.
  • Discharge all passengers before moving a drill rig on rough or hilly terrain.
  • Engage the front axle (for 4x4, 6x6, etc. vehicles or carriers) when traveling off-highway on hilly terrain. If equipped with multiple speed transfer case, operate in low range. (Refer to manufacturer's recommendations.)
  • Use caution when traveling side-hill. Conservatively evaluate side-hill capability of drill rigs because the arbitrary addition of drilling tools may raise the center of mass. When possible, travel directly uphill or downhill. Increase tire pressures before traveling in hilly terrain (but do not exceed rated tire pressure).
  • Attempt to cross obstacles, such as small logs and small erosion channels or ditches, squarely rather than at an angle.
  • Use the assistance of someone on the ground as a guide when lateral or overhead clearance is close.
  • Set all brakes and/or locks after the drill has been moved to a new drilling site. When grades are present, block the wheels.
  • Never travel off-road with the mast (derrick) of the drill rig in the raised or partially raised position.

Safety Guide Offered

This article ('Transportation & Movement Consederations") is provided through the courtesy of the National Drilling Association (NDA). It is excerpted from the "Drilling Safety Guide," a 44-page publication developed through the combined efforts of the NDA, the Diamond Core Drill Manufacturers Association and the National Ground Water Association. The guide recently was revised to offer an up-to-date and comprehensive document to address the unique safety needs of drillers in the environmental, geotechnical and water well industries. It contains 30 sections covering governmental regulations, overhead and buried utilities, rotary and core drilling, cathead and rope hoists, welding and cutting torch safety, and much more. It also features an employee sign-off sheet to help ensure that employees have read and understand this vitally important subject matter. The "Drilling Safety Guide" is available by telephoning the NDA at 614-798-8080. The cost is $5 for members and $10 for non-members, plus shipping.