THE BEST DEEPWATER HORIZON BLOG EVER CREATED!!!!!!!
Deepwater Horizon is a movie recreation of the real life event that happened on April 20th, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon is a semi submersible offshore oil rig located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. This Oil rig was owned by Transoceans and leased by British Petroleum (BP). The movie gives an eye witness account of what transpired first hand on deck the Deepwater Horizon from a real life survivor, Mike Williams, who is portrayed as an everyday family man leaving his home to work as an engineer on the oil rig, not knowing what devastation awaits. When you think about this event, it goes down as the largest human disaster in U.S. history possessed on the environment, leaving thousands of animals dead, thousands of people infected in the area including those who worked to clean up oil spill, and also costing BP and America billions of dollars to clean up waste, and compensate employees and villagers.
However the movie does not include the aftermath and the total environmental disaster, it depicts the events on the actual blow out and explosion and how the employees on The Deepwater Horizon tried to save their lives and other co workers on the platform. This blog will provide an Occupational Safety and Health approach to the movie and point out the risk evoked during the incidents on April 20th, 2010.
BP’s executives which consisted of Donald Vildrine, gave the order to drill even though there was sufficient evidence against operations due to repairs needed, and negative tests. This held BP accountable for the disaster. Vildrine tried cutting corners to operate the rig and commence operations under poor conditions. Due to his negligence 11 lives were lost on the rig and he was then charged with man slaughter.
Despite the devastating happenings on the Deep water Horizon the
offshore oil and gas industry is generally a safety conscious and well
audited one. (yeaaaa, no it really is…..)
Throughout the movie we noticed that control mechanisms were put
in place on the Deep water Horizon. Effective controls protect
employees from harm in various ways. Elimination/ substitution of
the threat, isolation, engineering, administration and personal
protective equipment all help employers to protect employees by
Personal Protective Equipment. (PPE)
PPE is the simplest and least effective form of eliminating hazards. It
is seen as a final barrier between the hazard and the worker.
PPE is seen time and time again throughout this movie. Ear plugs, gloves, safety glasses and nomex flame resistant coveralls are all seen in abundance on the Horizon. These forms of controls are the least
effective, however in an inherently hazardous industry (like offshore
oil and gas) it is very difficult to eliminate hazards due to the generally unstable environment. When all other forms of controls are exhausted PPE like earplugs are made available to workers to prevent hearing loss.
Although nomex coveralls do not make you invincible to fire, its flame resistant nature allows it to ignite at a much lower rate and also to stop burning at a much faster rate once the flame is removed!! Hence the coverall does not make the wearer invincible.
Administrative controls are used when hazards cannot be eliminated or substituted and are meant to supplement or replace Mechanical controls in the workplace. Some examples of administrative controls
are warning signs and regular maintenance of equipment.
Important to note is that some key forms of administrative controls
seem to be overlooked on the drilling vessel. The operators of the Rig were put under extreme psychological pressure by the client BP, to cut corners and deviate from standard practice and procedure. These established procedures are forms of administrative controls meant to ensure compliance and structure during operations. The crew decided to cut corners by throwing a blind eye to several tests that
could have prevented the tragedy that took place that night. Rules and regulations were not stringently followed due to commercial pressure and a behind schedule completion date of 43 days worth 50 million USD.
Results of a negative pressure test showing extremely high pressure
in the drill pipe which is a dangerous risk to overlook. LOOKS GOOD TO ME!
Engineering controls are strategies designed to protect workers
from hazardous conditions by placing a barrier between the worker
and the hazard or by removing a hazardous substance through
air ventilation. Engineering controls involve a physical change to the
workplace itself, rather than relying on workers’ behavior or requiring workers to wear something. A perfect example of an engineering control in the movie is seen in the drill room.
Because of the room’s proximity to the dangerous environment outside, it is integrated with some form of reinforced glass with mesh protection and is also sound proof to screen out ambient noises.
A Physical hazard can be defined as “Factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it” (Australian Government Comcare, 2016). Many physical hazards were noticed in the movie and the most prominent ones were chosen to
be highlighted. At the beginning of the movie you can clearly see that the appropriate PPE was not properly used even by the person who is supposed to be in charge of safety on the platform.
This brings noise hazard into play as the loud noise from the helicopter which brought them to the platform can affect their hearing if correct practice is not taken to protect their ears. Noise hazard can be defined as high noise levels that can cause permanent hearing loss that cannot be corrected by surgery or a hearing aid, this is according to Graphic Products – Solution for Safety & Visual Communication. This neglect of PPE is seen further in the movie when the star of the movie was walking to the control room, he did not have on any coverall, earbuds or proper footwear which is required for the environment he is working in.
The next physical hazard identified was mechanical hazard which can be created as a result of either powered or manual (human) use of tools, equipment or machinery and plant. An example of a mechanical hazard is: contact and/or entanglement with unguarded moving parts on a machine (Safety Wise Advice Services, 2016). This can noticeably be seen in the scene when the employees were connecting pipes. The spinning mechanism of the machine can entrap workers and even entangle their coverall, specifically those who work in close proximity with the machinery.
Another physical hazard recognized was fall hazard, according to Safeopedia it can be defined as anything in a workplace that could cause accidental loss of balance or body support and result in falling. This was highlighted when a worker was speaking to the star of the movie, he was standing on a railing which was on a very high level and he was not secured to the railings which means that he could fall and get injured. We recommend that in the future the employee wears a safety harness and lanyard to secure their health and safety.
A slip hazard was showcased when employees of the Deepwater Horizon platform had to mop up mud which overflowed in excess of 5000 psi (pounds per square inch). A slip hazard can be caused as a result of too little friction or a lack of traction between the footwear and the floor surface (safeopedia). This was also displayed when the pipeline blew out and all the employees in the vicinity were covered with mud as well as the entire surroundings. It would be very hard to keep your footing on a surface when it is in such poor condition and this can lead to persons slipping and injuring themselves.
A pressure hazard was identified in the movie when the pipeline blew out. Pressure is defined as the force exerted against an opposing fluid or thrust distributed over a surface (Hillsborough Community College, 2014). The complete rupture of the pipeline could cause whiplash from broken high-pressure pipe, tubing, or hose. This can cause a blast effect due to a sudden release of pressure. There can also be injuries from fragmentation which can impale and cause serious damage.
A fire hazard was present in the movie. Fire hazards include all types of live flames, causes of sparks, hot objects, and chemicals that are potential for ignition, or that can aggravate a fire to become large and uncontrolled, (Safeopedia). The MGS (Mud Gas Separator) removes only small amounts of gas en-trained in the mud. Once separated, the gas is vented to the atmosphere at a safe location. When the crew diverted high flow to the MGS, the system was overwhelmed and this created a fire hazard. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in the Deepwater Horizon were not designed to trip upon gas detection, manual activation was required. This was so as false gas-detection trips would interrupt the power supply to the thrusters which kept the rig in position. The hydrocarbon gas which was being expelled into the air and on the platform made its way into the HVAC system which was then carried to the engine room, causing at least one engine to over-speed, creating a potential source of ignition.
Struck-by hazards or crush hazards can be seen at the half way point of the movie all the way to the end. A struck-by hazard refers to an accident in which a worker is hit and injured by an object, tool or equipment, (Safeopedia). After the blow out everything went haywire and there were a lot of projectiles flying around and a lot of debris which was falling that could harm persons on the rig. This can be depicted in the image below.
Any toxic chemicals, physical or biological agents in the environment that are due to natural occurrences or human activity can be considered environmental hazards as it may affect the health of those exposed to it.
Environmental Hazard is not your typical work hazard. In fact due to state regulations and continuous inspection companies are forced to keep the environment a safe and secure place. With a major environmental disaster such as the Deepwater horizon spill there’s no way we’re forgetting the environment and the devastation to the environment.
Nearing the end of the movie, the entire Deepwater Horizon oil rig and its surrounding waters can be seen engulfed in flames and oil. A lack of safety checks for a cement job done to plug a large oil pipe resulted in a blowout, or uncontrolled mass release of natural oil and gas. This large scale release of crude oil into the environment is hazardous to not only the surroundings of the oil rig and its operators, but to large amounts of the earth’s environment and its inhabitants.
Surrounding the rig is the earth’s atmosphere, which is being polluted at an alarming rate as the naturally occurring oil and gas blazes. This can cause depletion of the ozone layer and stimulate global warming. Additionally, such a large quantity of emissions is also hazardous to the environment as it decreases the quality of air significantly. The image to the right of the page shows the amount of smoke created due to the explosion.
Below the rig is the ocean and its ecosystems which are now under hazardous threat due to large amounts of fossil fuels being ejected into it. The surrounding ocean for miles is contaminated along with its inhabitants. This affects not only marine animals but humans and other land animals as well, for example, pelicans that feed on fish that can now be contaminated and even poisoned after consuming. Species and ecosystems, in its entirety can be wiped out and even face extinction due to this hazardous spillage as seen in the aforementioned image.
Recommendation: To prevent this problem, educational and engineering procedures can be put in place. For example, teaching staff about proper checks and the importance of them or having a large underwater tank and reroute pipes that can store and transport large quantities of oil and gas in the event of a blowout are some ways in which such environmental hazards can be avoided.
Hazardous chemicals in the workplace are substances, mixtures and materials that can be classified according to its health, physical and chemical risks and dangers. Health hazards include skin irritants, carcinogens or respiratory sensitisers that have an adverse effect on a worker’s health as a result of direct contact with or exposure to the chemical, usually through inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. (world health and safety regulations,2011).
The first of which is the direct contact with oil that the drillers dealt with daily. Also, before the explosion, huge amounts of oil covered workers completely. These fossil fuels contain toxic chemicals and can irritate the skin leading to diseases after prolonged exposure. In the image we can see how the employee’s skin is discolored due to some form of skin contamination.
Another chemical hazard observed was the pollution created that harms the environment. These chemicals spilled into the ocean and atmosphere will affect millions of wild life and humans living around the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana. Imagine filling up your gas at a petrol station and a little fuel touches your skin, if it isn’t rinsed off it irritates your skin and can eventually cause a rash. In one of the scenes, a bird loses all its senses and panics because it was covered in oil. Compare that little bit of oil that ends up on your skin to and your entire body covered in the oil like the bird.
The exposure to the smoke caused by the burning of the fossil fuel and other chemicals used on the oil rig is a major chemical hazard. These fumes affect the breathing and caused coughing by the workers. The smoke and fumes lead to health problems of rig workers, rescue personnel and clean-up crews. In the movie they have to fight through the smoke and fire which will cause respiratory problems such as lung cancer, asthma or even bronchitis. This could of been reduced by wearing safety masks to reduce the toxins from entering the body. In the future, even though a respiratory mask is not needed on a day to day basis on a rig, they should have emergency masks in areas in case of emergency. In the image above we can see the volume of smoke surrounding the workers which is produced by the fire and will contaminate the air being inhaled by the rig workers.
An ergonomic hazard is a physical factor within the environment that harms the muscular skeletal system. To reduce such risk, ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace, to comfortably fit the needs of the worker. Poor work site design leads to fatigued, frustrated and damaged workers. Additionally, this leads to a painful and costly injury, lower productivity and poor product quality.
Job activities involving ergonomic risk include:
- Awkward postures
- Compression or contact stress
- Forceful exertions
- Insufficient rest breaks
The overall aim of ergonomics is to reduce injuries and accidents and make the job more efficient and easier to do. Ergonomics poses many benefits to both employer and employee, some of which include:
- Reduces costs
- Improves productivity
- Improves quality
- Improves employee engagement
- Creates a better safety culture
Hazard 1: Workstation
The Deepwater Horizon rig housed 126 crew members. Taking into consideration the limited work station of the rig, the layout of a control room and drill shack is not always ideal. As illustrated in the photo below, we can see a limited work space with cramped desks, monitors, filing cabinets and narrow walk ways. Throughout the movie, workers of the control room are constantly on their feet, or their eyes are glued to monitor screens to check readings. This 24-hour job operation requires workers to always wear PPE since they regularly need to go to different control rooms, climb high towers and monitor different equipment to ensure the smooth running of the system.
Needless to say, drilling rigs are massive multi-story structures that house large equipment. It is often difficult to access plant and equipment, and control rooms or towers that are often located on the opposite end of the rig. To get the job done, most times workers end up being the one who must compromise. With constant climbing of stairs, bending and lifting, these cycles are repetitive in nature. Awkward postures place excessive force on joints and overload the muscles and tendons around the effected joint, this further leads to fatigue.
- Control Room poor working posture can be fixed by making sure equipment can be reached easily, either from sitting or standing.
- The chair should be comfortable and supportive, in a range of postures. Since the person must lean forward a lot, it would be useful to have a good back support always. Chair arms should be short and height adjustable.
- Implement rest or stretch breaks to provide an opportunity for increased circulation needed for recovery.
Hazard 2: Floor Operations
Studies have shown that deck operations and maintenance are where most injuries occur. A key scene in the movie was the scene depicting the undertaking of the pressure test to determine the stability of the rig. We can see floor workers pacing back and forth performing the pressure test, the work station floor is completely wet and slippery with no visible caution signs in place. Heavy rainfall and sea blasts are inevitable given the positioning of the drilling rig. While this hazard may seem very minor to an everyday workstation, in this case it claimed the lives of 11 men. These men were last seen on the drill floor, the mud pump room, and the shaker house. All those areas were broadly exposed to the gaseous hydrocarbon flow erupting from the well through the MGS system vents. No protection system was built into these working areas of the rig to deflect the effects of explosion from those who were exposed. This scene also illustrates maintenance violations whereby, throughout the movie it makes mention of maintenance problems not being resolved. Communication is an invariable factor in the operations of the rig, however, phones were not working, equipment needed maintenance and plants gave inaccurate readings due to lack of maintenance.
Violation: This is in breach of the OSH Act of Trinidad and Tobago as Section IV (22)
(1) In every industrial establishment, no young person shall work at a machine to which this section applies, unless he has been fully instructed as to the dangers arising in connection with its operation, and the precautions to be observed, and
(a) has received sufficient training in work at the machine; or
(b) is under adequate supervision by a person who has special knowledge and experience in the operation of the machine.
(2) This section applies to such machines as may be prescribed, being machines which are of such a dangerous character that a young person ought not to work at them unless the requirements of subsection (1) are complied with.
- Paint stripes to highlight hazards on floor.
- Put up protection against weather (wind, rain, etc.).
- Wear the necessary PPE and ensure proper fitting of PPE.
- Use good handling techniques, and equipment e.g. trolleys, slings, to make the job more manageable.
- Boots may be wet and greasy. Thus, it may be helpful to put non-slip tread on the rungs.
- Ensure all equipment are regularly maintained and have the necessary repairs done.
Hazard 3: Clear Emergency Plans
Although the vessel had muster stations and emergency plans, crew members had never practiced safety drills without warning to simulate a real disaster. In one scene of the movie after the rig explosion, the muster point was unclear to many. After an investigation was conducted, it can be seen that watch officers were not trained to respond to the conditions faced in this incident, emergency procedures did not equip the watch standers with immediate actions to minimize damage and loss of life, the training routine did not include any full rig drills designed to develop and maintain crew proficiency in reacting to major incidents, and training of key personnel did not include realistic blowout scenarios or the handling of multiple concurrent failures.
Violation: This is in breach of the OSH Act of Trinidad and Tobago as Section V (26), (27), (28).
- (17) An employer shall take into consideration the results of the annual risk assessment carried out pursuant to section 13A in determining what is necessary to provide a means of escape in case of fire.
- Where in an industrial establishment more than twenty persons are employed in the same building above the ground floor, or where explosive or highly flammable materials are stocked or used in a building where persons are employed, effective steps shall be taken to ensure that all employed persons are familiar with the means of escape, their use and the routine to be followed in case of fire and a record of the number and frequency of evacuation drills shall be kept and presented, on demand, for inspection by the fire authority.
- In every industrial establishment there shall be provided, maintained and kept readily available for use appropriate fire equipment approved by the fire authority for fighting fire and the occupier shall ensure that a sufficient number of persons trained in using such equipment are available during the working hours and a record of the number of persons trained and the frequency of lectures and fire drills shall be kept and presented on demand, for inspection by the fire authority.
- Industry should institute design improvements in systems, technology, training, and qualification to ensure that crew members are best prepared to cope with serious casualties.
- Drilling rig contractors should require realistic and effective training in operations and emergency situations for key personnel before assignment to any rig.
- Realistic simulators should be used to expose key operators to conditions of stress that are expected in major conflagrations, including heat and loss of visibility.
Biological hazards refer to organisms or organic matters produced by these organisms that are harmful to human health. These include parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi and protein. In general, there are three major routes of entry for these micro-organisms into our body, i.e. through the respiratory system, transmission through contact with body fluids of the infected or contact with contaminated objects (Biological Hazards- Prevention and Personal Protection)
Neglect of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – At the turning point of the movie where the mud was seeping through the drill pipe valve upon taking the pressure test, it is seen that Caleb Holloway is examining the pipe with his bare hands and upon inspection, discovered that is was oil. In previous operations in the movie however, he is seen to be wearing his PPE (gloves). The neglect of Caleb to keep his PPE on is seen as a biological hazard as the exposure of skin to hazardous agents can result in a variety of occupational diseases. The contact between the oil and his skin can lead to the oil being absorbed by his skin, with the chemical composition of the oil being a threat to his health. Where is his gloves? Wasn’t full PPE necessary?
Violation of OSH Act: According the OSH Act of Trinidad and Tobago under the section of Safety with regards to personal protective equipment, all persons entering an area in an industrial establishment where they are likely to be exposed to the risk of head, eye, ear, hand or foot injury, injury from air contaminant or any other bodily injury, shall be provided with suitable protective clothing or devices of an approved standard and adequate instructions in the use of such protective clothing or devices, and no person shall be permitted to be in any such area unless he is wearing such protective clothing or device.
Recommendation: It is crucial to keep your PPE on at all times during the duration of any job to be in compliance of the act as well as to be safe and protected as well as minimize all hazards and potential hazards. To ensure that PPE is worn at all times, signs along with supervisors should be on site reinforcing the action of keeping on your PPE as well as sanctions for not doing so.
The Mixing of Blood and Fluids- After the disastrous blowout of oil and the explosion that followed, most of the workers suffered physical damage which resulted in various cuts and bruises. When most of the workers reached to an assembly point, Mike William took it upon himself to locate crew members who didn’t make it. It was through this venture that he found several colleagues bleeding intensely. In addition to his colleague, Mike was bleeding as well. In trying to help his colleague, Mike did not think about the biological hazard and being susceptible to obtain any type of infection.
In this Clip from the movie, the employee’s leg gets stuck and breaks. Mike pulls bone with his bare hands to get leg out of rubble. Skin to skin contamination may occur here. What a cringing scene though.
Recommendation: Although it may have been very unlikely to take care of himself in the situation given, Mike’s susceptibility to infection could have been reduced if Mike could have had medical attention in which his wounds were cleaned and covered with bandages.
A Psychological Hazard is defined as “any hazard that affects the mental well-being or mental health of the worker by overwhelming individual coping mechanisms and impacting the worker’s ability to work in a healthy and safe manner” (physiotherapyalberta.ca). Some Psychological Hazards in the movie “Deepwater Horizon” are Work Organizational Factors such as Workplace Violence (Conflict) and Personal Factors such as Post-traumatic stress disorder (depression, anxiety), Frustration and Fear. As seen in Deepwater Horizon, negative mental health impacts were most common in people whose work, family, or leisure life was impacted by the spill.
HAZARD: Conflict is the mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands. Workplace conflict, given its relationship to stress, can be equally dangerous to people’s physical and emotional health. In this image the conflict was the amount of resources that was being spent on the equipment, which was very low even though there was a need to repair and upgrade. This compromised the life of employees. The suggestion was made to upgrade equipment to prevent the occurrence of any accidents, however, it was not done because of the focus on profitability of the management of BP. The BP executive and acting rig supervisor insisted on going ahead despite complaints of faulty equipment and unfinished checks.
RECOMMENDATION: Training employees to resolve conflicts. By developing conflict resolution skills employees and managers can resolve problems early and avoid major disruptions to their business. Dispute resolution workshops and training focuses on topics such as managing difficult behaviors, mediation practices, prevention of bullying and other techniques. Good communication skills are very important as it is less likely to enter into conflicts and are more likely to ensure agreements. This would also create efficiency in the workplace by saving time from having disputes and creating hostile environments.
HAZARD: Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault or other life-threatening events. In the movie Deepwater Horizon stress was a main factor to employees due to the loss of co-workers. Eleven (11) of them were killed because of the explosion during the oil spill. It also caused some workers to no longer work in the oil industry such as Andrea Fleytas and also some to never go back to the sea again such as Mike Williams. It was a very real and had a long-lasting impact on individuals and communities.
RECOMMENDATION: Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy should be offered to those with severe post-traumatic symptoms or with post-traumatic stress disorder after the traumatic event. Also support, guidance, and assistance from friends and family can help in recovering. Another way can be trying not to isolate oneself, trying to connect with people such as making new friends, reconnecting with old friends and participating in social activities. It is also advisable to prepare employees for such events because of the nature of the job and the risky environment they work in so that it would cushion or soothe the effect of any such event.
HAZARD: A critical incident can be defined as any event that has a stressful impact sufficient enough to overwhelm the usually effective coping skills of an individual. Frustration is the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. The stress of the situation caused anxiety to the offshore installation manager of Transocean. His reaction was one of frustration and disappointment towards BP executive as he sent him to safety because of their previous disagreement.
RECOMMENDATION: Anger is one way people tend to vent their frustration which can be directed towards either ourselves or towards the one causing it. Only when someone is thinking straight and being calm they would be able to address the problem that is causing the frustration. Also accept and move on rather than stressing which can cause nervous breakdown and mental illness. Anger management programmes should be available to employees especially as the environment they work in is capable of contributing to such.
Doing this blog for The Deepwater Horizon was very intriguing just knowing that it was a real story and the events that occurred were very accurate. Cutting corners to save a few millions, by a billion dollar company costed them billions, 11 innocent lives and devastation to wildlife worldwide. This movie should be used to help oil companies improve their safety measures. PPE isn’t enough and better safety procedures in case of major disasters such as the one seen in the movie should be entailed on platforms.
THANK YOU FOR READING!!!!
- https://www.safeopedia.com/definition/739/fire-hazards Counting.pdfhttps://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/reports/pdfs/2010-0115-0129-3138.pdf
- Liou, J. (2011, September 21). Training, hazard control key to better ergonomics. Retrieved October 03, 2017, from http://www.drillingcontractor.org/training-hazard-control-key-to-better-ergonomics-10633
- Read “Macondo Well Deepwater Horizon Blowout: Lessons for Improving Offshore Drilling Safety” at NAP.edu. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.nap.edu/read/13273/chapter/7#85
- Workplace Ergonomics 101. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2017, from http://ergo-plus.com/workplace-ergonomics/
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