Certain types of injuries have been reduced on oil and gas drilling rigs by using  advanced technology such as remote control pipe handling systems. Introducing “iron derrickmen” on drilling rigs eliminated the need to have derrickman on top of the derrick and other floormen on the rig floor and reduced exposure to various risks. All operations are performed and controlled by a driller remotely.

In fact, companies operating in some regions such as Norwegian waters are obliged to comply with certain regulatory requirements that require the use of unmanned and remotely operated equipment. However, introducing advanced equipment can create hazards and in some cases, significant incidents have occurred. These include collisions and other interactions between remotely controlled equipment and personnel, between equipment and structures, between different drill floor equipment or within the equipment itself.

Handling and positioning of heavy equipment often results in trapped or crushed fingers and hands. The majority of oil and gas companies and contractors have adopted a hands-free policy where heavy equipment is concerned and initiated comprehensive campaigns to reduce the number of hand and finger injuries. This was achieved by using taglines and push poles for loads and by installing CCTV on rigs and platforms crane booms during lifting operation.

A range of safely products including finger savers, pipe catchers, pipe handling tools, push sticks and load handling straps are produced by different manufacturers and contribute to “hands-free” efforts. The tools are designed to remove workers’ hands and fingers from danger zones.

Other Considerations

Clear identification of hazardous areas such as pinch points through the use of color coding and warning stickers can enhance employees awareness and reduce the number of hand and finger injuries. Many equipment manufacturers provide this information on their equipment , but frequent use of equipment and factors such as weather conditions can cause warning labels to disappear and repainting may required.

Many machines have built-in safeguards to protect employees’ hands and fingers. Proper guarding on machines and regular inspections to ensure are the guards are not compromised are fundamental in the prevention of body parts to pinch points and the moving parts of machinery.

Selection of proper hand tools is crucial for the prevention of hand and finger injuries. Using the wrong tools for the job or using right tools in wrong way can result in a serious hand and finger injury. Regular hand tools inspections and using protective tools such as “finger savers” in combination with hand tools where practical play a significant role in prevention of injuries.

Banning the use of some tools such as adjustable wrenches is critical, as they have tendency to slip and increase the likelihood of hand an finger injuries.

Finally, a dangerous practice of some employees is the wearing of jewelry. Thousands of people are injured every year when a ring, watch, bracelet or other piece of jewelry gets caught in machinery or pinch points. Most companies have policies and procedures forbidding the wearing of jewelry at work.

Despite of a lot of efforts by oil and gas companies, the industry statistic indicates that number of hand and finger injuries are increasing year over year. There is no single solution to reduce the number of hand and finger injuries and a range of mitigation measures should be included in prevention strategies.

While improved technology on oil and gas drilling rigs has reduced hand and finger injury risks to certain degree, the technology brings with it new risks that need to be mitigated. The most critical aspect to reduce hand and finger injuries is the involvement of employees injury prevention programs.