Part 1 in a series of articles to help drillers enhance safety performance, environmental performance and overall project quality.

Environmental drilling can be performed safely with proper pre-fieldwork planning and proactive adjustment of planned safe work procedures to actual conditions in the field. As every experienced driller and environmental professional knows, it is very difficult to predict all hazards that may be encountered during drilling fieldwork. The pre-field work preparations suggested here are applicable to mechanical drilling and push probe where portable drill rigs are used for soil boring advancement, subsurface soil and water-sample collection, or ground water monitoring well installation. If these pre-fieldwork preparations are diligently completed, the job can proceed safely and smoothly with less down time. It is recommended that supporting documentation for the pre-fieldwork preparations be retained in the project files.

Planning the Projec

Project planning begins when the customer’s drilling needs are made known to the environmental consultant or driller. Pre-fieldwork planning can be reflected in a proposal to the customer to secure the work assignment, or in a work plan used to communicate the technical approach and work procedures that will be used to safely complete the work. Following award of the project to a contractor, planning and scheduling should focus on preparations that will contribute to a safe and efficient operation at the job site. Much of the responsibility for planning, effective communication, and associated task work rests with the contractor’s project manager, however, experience has demonstrated participation by the customer’s project manager (with other key personnel as needed) and the contractor’s field team in the planning process significantly contributes to ensuring a safe and efficient job site.

The following list of items should be considered during the project planning stage prior to mobilizing to begin fieldwork:
  • Scope of work – overall project and drilling task objectives.

  • Customer, corporate and job-site health and safety requirements.

  • Technical approach (the means and methods to accomplish the customer’s scope of work).

  • Procurement and vendor selection

                Technical capabilities and equipment


                            public and private utility locators

                            traffic control and security

                            laboratory services (including data validation)

                            waste transportation and disposal

                Pre-qualification requirements to be considered

                            safety performance

                            training and experience of personnel

                            age and condition of required equipment

                            medical and substance abuse surveillance

                            proof of adequate insurance

                            licenses and registrations


                Ability to meet schedule

  • Roles and responsibilities (customer, owner, consultant, driller) for communications, work execution and safety.

  • Schedule (work phasing and sequencing, prioritization, project kickoff, fieldwork, reporting, closeout).

  • Permits and access agreements

Health & Safety Plan (HASP)

The site-specific hazards and potential risks associated with known conditions at the property or work area should be identified, reviewed and addressed in the site-specific HASP. The site-specific HASP should be reviewed by project staff and readily available to them onsite during fieldwork.

Drilling activities are inherently dangerous, and warrant detailed coverage in project-specific health and safety planning. Drilling can be addressed in a HASP and job safety analysis (JSA) developed by the contractor and the field team leader. The safe work procedures specified in the JSAs should be consistent with the overall project HASP and the customer’s site-specific health and safety requirements.

A JSA is a safety analysis tool that breaks down each work task into steps, assesses hazards and potential hazards associated with each step, and identifies corrective measures to mitigate or eliminate the hazard. JSAs should be prepared by workers experienced in the job to be performed and reviewed by the project team before going to the field, and then again onsite during the initial project kickoff and tailgate meetings. The following are tasks that may be addressed by one or more JSA:
  • mobilization and demobilization

  • traffic control

  • site security and site access

  • delineation and identification of critical zones

  • borehole siting and clearance - subsurface clearance protocol

  • rig maintenance

  • drilling operations

  • equipment decontamination procedures

  • well construction

  • well development

  • surface completions

  • well abandonment

  • well sampling

  • emergency situation notification and procedures
JSAs should be developed, reviewed and approved prior to the start of field activities, and updated as necessary based on new information or changed conditions.

The Kickoff Meeting

Informed planning and communication allows drilling tasks to be consistently performed safely. Essential participants in the review and kickoff process are the customer/owner, consultant, drilling contractor and field personnel that will execute the work. Following review, the participants should formally agree to or suggest revisions to the project plan. They should commit to rigorously implementing the HASP and stopping work when any unforeseen hazards are identified. Topics that may be addressed during the kickoff meeting include:
  • scope of work

  • customer objectives

  • technical approach – means and methods

  • roles and responsibilities

  • site management – owner or operator

  • project management or field team leader

  • health and safety management

  • all site workers – stopping unsafe conditions

  • schedules

  • mobilization

  • drilling activities

  • clean-up

  • de-mobilization

  • sample management (e.g., deciding if rush turnaround services necessary for analytical results)

  • simultaneous operations – on- or off-site activities that could impact drilling activity logistics or safety

  • changed conditions

  • access

  • scope

  • weather (include heat and cold management)

  • work hour limitations

  • construction

  • review, verify and validate hazards and mitigation measures

  • communication between field team, customer and project management

  • clearly communicate to project staff that stop work authority resides with every member of the project staff

  • reporting incidents

  • management of change (MOC)

  • schedule

  • documentation

  • sign-off on review and acceptance of HASP

  • workplace inspection and audits

  • completed checklists (pre-drill  protocol, borehole clearance review, and others)

Project planning and kickoff set the stage for safe work performance. However, incident-free operation will be dependant on daily reviews of work to be performed and associated hazards and mitigation measures. Adjustments to JSAs to accommodate changed conditions should be made before work commences. Before beginning each field task, or when conditions change, employees should think through the task’s work steps, consider the potential for injury, and identify what they must do to prevent injuries or accidents from occurring. 

This article is provided through the courtesy of AntiEntropics Inc., a provider of comprehensive needs assessments, third-party audits, and complete management system, training program and procedure development services. This article is excerpted from the company’s “Environmental Remediation Drilling Safety Guide.”