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Fri 19 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Safety drill

Petrofac recently signed a $250m contract with the government of Sharjah to oversee the facilities management of Sajaa Gas Plant but how difficult is it to implement health and safety regulations on hazardous sites?

Safety drill

When Petrofac announced it will look after all reservoir management, drilling and well services, plant operations, engineering and project management of Sajaa Gas Plant last month, Bill Dunnett, managing director of the company’s offshore engineering and operations business unit said ‘its focus will be on a safe and effective transition, asset performance and integrity’.

“To be safe is our number one value and we will work hard to embed our culture for safety throughout the operations,” said Mani Rajapathy, director of international operations for Petrofac.

He said its Asset Integrity Review Board (AIRB) meets every month and comprises operations managers from all assets where Petrofac is duty holder.

“Petrofac considers its employees as our most important asset. Ensuring the smooth transition of the current BP employees and integrating them into the Petrofac family will be a key focus area for the team,” added Rajapathy.

The duty holder has complete management responsibility for the day-to-day facilities Petrofac will be undertaking and Martin Main, who has been with the company for more than 15 years, will be the general manager of the facility.

“As duty holder, we will go further than simply providing services. We will discharge the owners’ legal obligations on their behalf (e.g. HSE Standards, engineering assurance, regulatory compliance, etc.) and as a result, will become far more embedded in the management of the facilities,” said Rajapathy.

“We are carrying out the role of duty holder on Sajaa Gas Plant (including
reservoir and wells, flow lines, manifolds and processing facilities), pipelines, Hamriyah facilities including LPG terminal and loading jetty and the condensate terminal including SBM.

“This means we will carry out all operations including pipeline and marine operations and maintenance, reservoir management, drilling and well services for safe operations, engineering, project management and construction, integrity assurance, quality assurance and management, hydrocarbon accounting, training, development and competence assurance and emergency response.”

Around 130 people will transfer from BP and Petrofac will mobilise its own management personnel and senior engineers to support the project.

“Risk assessments are carried out for each aspect of the transition and placed with the relevant teams to manage and overcome any problems,” said Rajapathy.

As part of the transition process, it will train all transferring employees into the Petrofac way of working ensuring that everyone is inducted in its health, safety, security, environment and asset integrity policies, procedures and guidelines.”

Health & Safety training

Ian Caffery general manager of Arabian Access Solutions is an advocate for better health and safety training on oil and gas rigs but says not enough is being done.

He believes the current standard of training in the Middle East is below par and recently set up a health and safety training company via E-Learning two months ago.

The courses cover everything from H2S (Hydrogen Sulphide) awareness, an introduction to oil and gas, hazard awareness, tank confined space entry, safety observation, elementary first aid, environmental awareness, firefighting, onscene spill responder, chemical substances and authorised gas tester Level 1.

Candidates have a Q&A exam at the end of the course and have to answer 80% of the questions accurately to pass.

“Arabian Access Solutions currently organises all the health and safety courses for a gas plant in the northern emirates which consists of 30 courses for 15 managers,” said Caffery.

Amie Atkinson is the training manager for the company as it targets the whole of the UAE by introducing a safety culture learning package into the workplace.

She said Arabian Access Solutions is launching a UAE-wide training program at the ADIPEC (Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference) 2010 in Abu Dhabi, from November 1-4.

All the courses are approved by a training body such as OPITO (Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation), or City & Guilds.

Each person who passes the course will be given a card, similar to a driving licence, and a certificate, and this must be renewed once every three years.

“Health and safety over here is seen as something companies have to have but little is done to raise awareness of the risks,” said Atkinson.

“We are starting a safety campaign for organisations where we can send them 10-15 posters a month on a different theme of safety, either working at height or heat awareness, for example, where everyone who subscribes to the campaign learns a topic at the same time.

“We can also provide employers with a powerpoint presentation on a USB stick for reference as a learning aid.”

The most common dangers when working on oil or gas rigs include slips and falls, H2S toxic gas and dehydration.

Caffery, who started his company in 2009, focuses on the maintenance of off-shore oil rigs and the gas industry. Using rope access and hydro blasting, his projects have included pipe cleaning for Fujairah Refinery, refurbishment of the fire-damaged arch at The Atlantis Hotel in Dubai and refurbishment of the Seawater Tunnel at the Barka Desalination Plant in Oman.

Future projects include the internal cleaning and passivating (the process of making a material “passive”, usually by the deposition of a layer of oxide on its surface) of oil storage tanks in Saudi Arabia, and the refurbishment of two drilling rigs in Sharjah and Oman.

H2S (Hydrogen Sulphide)

“The industry standard we adhere to in the oil and gas industry is ALARP (As Low as Reasonably Practicable Risk) which provides a framework for deciding on the level of investment needed for various safety programs,” said Caffery.

“For example, H S is a highly toxic gas when it comes into contact water.

It is the biggest danger we have. We teach people how to be aware when H2S is in the area and how to react to it. The properties of H2S sit at head height and smell of bad eggs. The first thing it attacks is a sense of smell, which is why most people do not detect it in time.

“We use our safety knowledge to prepare a site and to remove all dangerous risk assessments. For example, to clean a vessel we have to get inside it avoiding the giant fans that blow all the gas out. We wear BA (breathing apparatus) and PPE (personal protective equipment) and draw up rescue plans should something go wrong including a retrieval system to haul someone out of danger.

“We sit down and identify all the hazards with the clients before working on a job looking at ways of lowering potential risks. We make sure we have the correct PPE because there may be chemicals inside a tank. We don’t want them to burn through our boots or overalls.

“The biggest risk we have in the Middle East is transporting workers to each location because the roads are so dangerous over here. We can train our staff how to work on an oil or gas rig but driving them from plant to plant is the riskiest part of the job.

“Another target area is heat stress. When workers are dehydrated their urine is a deep yellow but the colour charts on location sites are in black and white which does not help employees.”

Caffery used to work for Petrofac in Norway and came to the UAE as a project manager when the company took over Dubai Petroleum.

“I saw how poor the safety standards were over here and decided I could do something about it. A lot of the workforce is Indian labour but most of the men cannot read or write so what use are written safety notices on oil rigs to them.

“There is not an efficient health and safety culture in the Middle East. It is used as something people pay lipservice to. We need to enhance the working ethos and bring it into the 21st century.

“There are a lot of engagement courses within the industry but there is no way to gage how much people have learnt at the end of them. It’s not fair on the oil companies or the workers themselves. There is nothing to say they have understood the course,” he added.

Caffery is very proud of Arabian Access Solution’s safety culture and said all his workers are properly trained.

He currently employs 14 people but is expanding to 24.

“We have 43 people on the first list of E-Learning and interest from five other companies as well.”

And, Billy Harkin, managing director of Megarme said his company has policies in place to make sure his workers know everything there is to know about the chemicals they use and the environment around them is preserved.

“Off-shore work is environmentally conscious. We often work above water off-shore so the rescue plans we have in place take account of that. The tougher the environment, the more technical the rescue plan is. Different jobs require different situations. But we have a proactive program making sure each of our technicians are trained for different jobs on different locations,” he said.

Petrofac agrees, its internal safety campaign, Horizon Zero won the UK Offshore Contractor’s Association (OCA) safety award in 2006 and was rolled out across the whole group in 2008.

A Horizon Zero toolkit was issued to all supervisors, containing tools to help raise awareness of occupational safety and the Petrofac Guide to Safety Leadership booklet and the Motor Vehicle Drivers’ Code were developed to assist and encourage employees to consider safety in all areas of their professional and personal lives.

“We will be inducting our transitioning employees at Sajaa Gas Plant to our health, safety, security, environment and asset integrity policies and to the eight Golden Rules for Safety.

“The eight rules are; permit to work, energy isolation, ground disturbance, confined space entry, working at height, lifting operations, driving safety and management of change,” added Dunnett.

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