The Smart Investment

While linking the economy to oil and gas worker safety may not be the most obvious connection, it is certainly a powerful one. From power dynamics shifting toward centralized locations over individual worksites, to safety equipment purchasing decisions becoming line items instead of thoughtful investments, energy companies continuously feel the economy’s impact, especially in a down cycle. In today’s society, where commoditization and convenience are key selling points, it becomes difficult for the same concepts not to spill over to safety practices and permeate throughout the worksite. At the rate at which competitors reproduce today’s solutions and introduce them in a flood to the market, quality may be overlooked for quantity. However, as soon as safety starts being treated as a raw material that can be bought and sold, the consequences can be deadly.

Beyond Finances
It’s often said success doesn’t come easily, and it certainly doesn’t come cheap. It’s a concept that translates across personal, professional and business lines. In particular, energy companies that opt for less-expensive safety measures likely will incur heavier costs in the long run, as the losses attributed to workplace injuries and illnesses go beyond just the financial costs. In fact, OSHA estimates that employers pay nearly $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs alone, not taking into account the resources needed to train replacements, accident investigation, lost productivity, equipment damage repairs and lower employee morale. While organizations may be tempted to explore more economical safety solutions, a cost-benefit analysis should always be performed to determine if the solution that initially requires a greater upfront investment may ultimately provide superior safety.

Smarter Technology, Smarter Safety
Fortunately, modern technology and computing have made it possible for safety manufacturers to engineer solutions that meet each worksite’s individual needs, helping mitigate the likelihood of a company choosing a commoditized product with fewer capabilities. For example, companies that place a premium on promoting a culture of safety should seek out high-quality multi-gas detectors created with worker protection as a top priority. Detectors that stand out as quality products should showcase the following features:
Increased sensitivity and accuracy: The past decade bore witness to great advancements in technological achievement, especially in the area of sensor technology, which has resulted in the reduction of response time (or the increase of sensor speed). Time is an integral component when it comes to dangerous situations, and the difference between five or ten seconds could mean life and death. This life-saving factor should be a key element companies consider when evaluating an equipment investment geared at increased and strengthened worker safety. This technology adds a necessary layer of protection when atmospheric hazards present themselves and time is of the essence. Consider the following illustrative H2S example highlighting the difference between sensor speeds, involving a sensor A with t-90 time (the time it takes for a sensor to measure 90 percent of the test gas concentration) of 15 seconds versus sensor B with t-90 time of 25 to 40 seconds.
In this experiment, both monitors are simultaneously exposed to H2S and neither record an immediate reaction. Fifteen seconds in, however, the device with the shorter t-90 time begins to register a gas amount of 10 ppm (parts per million) while the other device with the longer t-90 time has not even registered a gas reading at any level. At these concentrations of H2S, a worker wearing a device with sensor B will begin to experience reduced levels of oxygen in the blood and start suffering from decreased muscle activity. If the less sensitive sensor is used in a real life setting, this could continue for 10 seconds longer than necessary and, depending on the concentration present, could prove to have adverse health effects on workers.
Enhanced recordkeeping: The integration of electronic documentation into safety solutions is becoming increasingly comprehensive. Not only does this aggregation of data lend itself to protecting a company’s most valuable asset – its workers – but the analytics made available via captured information also allow companies to identify onsite safety hazards, financial risks and more effectively track worker compliance. Documentation has never been easier now that gas detectors are capable of conducting and recording safety measures, like bump tests and calibration checks. Proactively pinpointing non-compliant conduct and consequently implementing stronger safety measures that align with worker behavior are the new reality made possible with the collected data. In addition, docking technologies have advanced reducing the potential for human error. Innovative smart locker-like devices not only house and discharge gas detectors, but they can also appropriately bump test, calibrate and charge equipment, which saves time usually spent manually conducting and documenting these procedures. By incorporating these intuitive docking systems into routine processes, companies can rest easy knowing the equipment in use throughout their site is fully functional and will contribute to worker safety and efficiency.

Ultimately, better safety is an investment that is always worth making. Price should never be the deciding factor when selecting devices for the worksite. Companies that choose to make this investment up front are ultimately positioning themselves and their workers for a promising, profitable and well-protected future. 
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Larry Medina is a product portfolio marketing manager specializing in gas detection for Draeger Safety Inc. He can be reached at Larry.Medina@Draeger.com.

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