By Daniel Shepard, Ansell Protective Products Inc. When faced with immediate danger – a flame or a projectile – your first instinct is to raise your hands to shield your face. In the high-risk, upstream oil and gas environment, workers’ reactions are similar. Yet, gloves used in the industry have not provided workers with both the protection and flame resistance needed to ensure safety. While flame resistance standards exist for all other types of protective clothing used by upstream workers, there are currently no standards for gloves. A recent survey by Geostrategy Partners revealed that industry thought leaders have not given proper attention to fire safety protocols because flash fire occurrences on oil rigs are relatively low. But according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) , flash fires and explosions were one of the primary causes of fatal and nonfatal injuries in the industry. In general, standards in hand protection and changes in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the upstream industry have been driven by corporate policies, not by government regulations. A general mandate from OSHA translated to mandatory adoption of flame-resistant clothing (FRC) by much of the industry. Though risk managers recognize that flash fires are rare, the use of FRC greatly improves the chance of a worker surviving and regaining quality of life if an incident occurs. While the sophistication of hand-protection solutions has improved greatly, flame-resistant hand protection remains a final standard not yet adopted through the industry. Dot-cotton gloves have been ubiquitous for every task in the upstream environment, but are unsafe in an environment where wrist, finger and hand injuries account for 18% of reported injuries , the largest percentage for any particular body part. Looking to minimize such incidences, the upstream oil and gas industry -- led by multinational oil and gas companies, drilling contractors and oilfield service companies – became decidedly more proactive about hand safety. From this attention, we have seen the primacy of the high-visibility impact protection glove as well as job-specific gloves, particularly gloves that are more robust and provide enhanced protection and dexterity in environments replete with oil-based muds, synthetic-based muds, and hydraulic fluids. Protecting workers from flash fires is sometimes perceived as expensive and cumbersome to the daily routine of the employee; however, the use of FRC can significantly reduce the extent and severity of burn injuries. As the industry continues to optimize safe work environments, manufacturers of PPE must create innovative solutions that complement the policies being implemented. In the absence of flame-resistance standards for hand protection solutions, Ansell has adapted the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 2112 Flame Resistant Work Wear Standards to glove designs for upstream oil and gas to create gloves that provide the same level of protection as other FRC, while maintaining comfort and durability. Although this is a great step towards improving fire safety standards, there are still several other challenges to address. Manufacturers must continue to collaborate with industry leaders, supporting worker safety even in the absence of government regulation. Until a standard is mandated, the industry must partner with PPE manufacturers to drive adoption of a safer work environment. Daniel Shepard is associate director, Global Business Development at Ansell Protective Products Inc., which provides superior health and safety protection solutions that enhance human well being.  Oil and Gas Industry Fatal and Nonfatal Occupational Injuries, Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, April 2010. http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/os/osar0013.htm  Upstream Oil & Gas Industry Statistical Overview (2006-10), WorkSafeBC BIA Data Mart, July 2010.
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