I’m not exactly what you’d call a walking encyclopedia of OSHA policies, guidelines and interpretations. I know enough to know that there are plenty of things for contractors to comply with. I also know that National Driller and other heavy equipment publications bear a responsibility for how they reflect the industry.
Readers call or email whenever I run photos of folks on a jobsite without hard hats. They’re right to take us to task for printing photos showing poor safety practices. I’m not complaining. Sometimes I overlook the obvious in the editing process. Mistakes happen. Sometimes, like last month, I’ll greenlight a photo of someone on or near a drilling rig without a hard hat when it’s obvious to me the machine isn’t operating.
But people take us to task anyway, saying we have a responsibility to reflect the industry. They’re right. But my fear is that we actually do.
John Schmitt, a longtime National Driller columnist, Master Ground Water Contractor and former NGWA president, has told me stories about his dad’s smart decision to start using a hard hat — the most basic of safety gear — many decades ago. Would you believe that, all these years later, I’ve spoken with drilling contractors who still insist hard hats don’t make their crews safer? I’m afraid the hard hat conversation is not settled.
National Driller reflects the industry. It’s an industry made up of people, and people have flaws. Sometimes, people don’t live up to 100-percent safe practices because of a bad day or a moment of inattention. Sometimes, people fool themselves into thinking that an incident won’t happen because it hasn’t happened.
Mistakes do happen, though. Here at National Driller, we can slow down and make sure we’re looking better at every photo. Likewise, on the jobsite, contractors can take a moment, and assess and reassess their safety and the safety of those working next to them.
I know the industry has room to improve here (as does National Driller). I see it in the jobsite photos submitted to me. Most of the time, drillers working in photos I get have hard hats. Often, they have eye and ear protection and steel-toed boots. Few of the photos submitted to National Driller show drillers using a full complement of protective gear that includes all of these precautions.
It goes beyond PPE, though. Regulations, best practices and common sense give contractors hundreds of action steps to help crews stay safe. These steps, however, sometimes aren’t obvious on first glance to the untrained eye. How trained is yours?
Challenge yourself to look harder. Can you spot the safety issues that everyone else misses? A reader recently sent me a safety test. Well, it was really just a jobsite photo with the directive to find the safety fail. I couldn’t find it. That doesn’t surprise me, though. Even with four years covering this industry, there’s a lot I don’t know or wouldn’t think to look for.
Raise your hand if you work with someone who has only a few years on the rig. Do you think he or she knows everything to look for and can foresee even uncommon safety pitfalls? I didn’t think so. It’s up to you, drilling veterans, to make sure today’s apprentices still have all their fingers tomorrow. And it’s up to you to keep reminding us here at National Driller that we can do better, too.
We’re all counting on you.
What do you think? Is there a safety mistake you see people make all the time? Have you had “that” argument with another driller about why he should wear a hard hat? Tell me about it. Send an email to email@example.com.