Oilfield Safety and FR Apparel

I read an article on Forbes.com the other day about two oil workers killed by flash fire while working on a oil well in North Dakota. The pair weren’t wearing flame-resistant clothing and an investigation of the incident is focusing on that fact.

FR clothing can be a lifesaver, but in severe flash fire cases workers would have to be covered in high-level gear for real protection. Flame-resistance is an interesting part of the safety industry. Sometimes it’s tough to understand, and the exact level of protection needed may not always be clear to workers.

We were talking about this at Esafetystore the other day and brought up FR treated safety vests. The level of protection offered by these is low-level at best. If someone shoots a roman candle at you, you’re probably going to be OK. But when exposed to serious flame or flash fire, you’re in trouble. Workers need to be informed of what kinds of FR clothing is out there, and what level of flame-resistant protection they need for the job.

The best insight of the Forbes article was a quote by Rick Laursen, who is the manager of health, safety and security for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers:

“Laursen said he believes the focus on any well fire investigation shouldn’t be on what clothes were worn, but on how the flammable mixture escaped into the atmosphere. The clothing is ‘what’s known as the last line of defense, and it really isn’t even a defense,’ Laursen said.”

Good point.