U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)

After worker fractures multiple teeth, U.S. regulator comes up with several recommendations

Following a review of the circumstances surrounding an injury, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has revealed multiple recommendations for oil and gas operators and contractors on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)

In a safety alert published last week, BSEE pointed out that a recent injury occurred when a worker used a half-inch breaker bar to remove a three-inch star nut on a stud bolt from a flange. While loosening the star nut, the worker was applying downward force when the tool suddenly broke, causing the worker to fall forward and strike a steel beam, fracturing multiple teeth and causing a lower lip laceration.

Afterwards, the company reported lessons learned from the incident and reminded workers to thoroughly inspect all tools before and during use, and consider other options regarding tool selection to complete a task, such as choosing a hand tool instead of a portable powered tool. 

In addition, the firm advised workers to be aware of their body positioning when performing a job task to avoid pinch point areas or striking other objects in the workplace. This is particularly important when completing a job requiring powered tools, rigging activities, bleeding off pressurized equipment, etc. The company also said that workers should use Stop Work Authority when they see unsafe acts or conditions in the workplace.   

As BSEE reviews injuries of this nature for opportunities to strengthen Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) programmes to prevent the recurrence of similar types of injuries and to ensure that workers are fully involved in developing and implementing their SEMS plan, the U.S. regulator reviewed this incident.

During the review, BSEE learned that the injured worker was given a full-duty medical release to return to work the same day the trauma occurred. While the regulator has not questioned the adequacy of the injured worker’s medical treatment in this incident, it wants to “remind SEMS participants to be aware of potential conflicts of interest when company-provided physicians provide treatment and make recommendations regarding health and fitness-for-duty decisions.”

Broken breaker bar following the incident; Source: BSEE
Broken breaker bar following the incident; Source: BSEE

Furthermore, BSEE is obliged to the public to make its reviews promptly and in this and other incidents reviewed, the reviewing officer perceived a hesitance on the operator’s part to provide requested information, citing concerns about violating privacy laws.  

With this in mind, BSEE recommends that operators and contractors review this incident and consider the lessons learned listed by the company and involve all employees and contractors in reviewing their SEMS to identify and mitigate potential conflicts of interest where they might exist.

Additionally, BSEE recommends that operators and contractors should inform employees of their legal rights and options for medical treatment if injured on the job. For example, under the Jones Act, the Longshore Act, and in most state jurisdictions, workers have the right to seek their own doctors to provide medical treatment and care when injuries occur.  

Moreover, operators and contractors should review all privacy laws and regulations to ensure the medical privacy of all workers and fully understand when and where they are applicable; and review 43 USC Chapter 29, Subchapter III: Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and the regulatory requirements of 30 CFR 250 for operators and their SEMS participants to fully understand the lawful obligations to ensure information and records are provided to BSEE in a timely manner.