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Safe Lifting Committee: Human behavior at root of lifting incidents

Posted on 15 July 2010

Since its formation in mid-2009, the API Safe Lifting Committee (SLC) has evaluated years of lifting data from the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and issued recommendations to operators, trade associations and regulators on how to improve lifting safety, said SLC co-chairman Bob Watson, Seatrax Marine Cranes, at the IADC Lifting & Mechanical Handling Conference on 13 July in Houston.

The SLC’s efforts were aided by the 2006 change in incident reporting requirements by the then-MMS, which enabled the industry to collect better-quality data. In turn, that helped the SLC to analyze lifting incidents for root causes.

What they found was that hardware failures were not the predominant factor for lifting incidents. Hardware failures did occur, but the true factor leading to incidents was people not following training or established procedures, Mr Watson said.

Statistics show that the rigger suffers the largest percentage of lifting injuries on the OCS, according to the API Safe Lifting Committee.

Statistics show that the rigger suffers the largest percentage of lifting injuries on the OCS, according to the API Safe Lifting Committee.

The SLC’s analysis of data from 2005 to 2009 showed that 727 of a total 3,478 reported incidents on the OCS were lifting incidents, approximately 20.9%. A total 600 of the 727 incidents were associated with cranes, while the rest were associated with other lifting devices. Only 218 of the 727 incidents (30%) occurred during drilling operations, while 509 (70%) occurred during production operations.

With OCS injuries in the same time period, the SLC found, 209 of the total 1,367 injuries were lifting-related, or 15.3%. Of these 209 lifting injuries, 142 were associated with cranes and 67 with other lifting devices. A total 73 of the 209 injuries were associated with drilling operations and 136 with production.

Looking at fatalities, the SLC found that seven of the 42 OCS fatalities reported from 2005 to 2009 were lifting-related, or 16.7%. Three of the 42 were associated with cranes and four with other lifting devices. Drilling operations accounted for six of those seven fatalities.

One conclusion that the SLC reached from analyzing this data was that the industry needed to pay more attention to the rigger position. Compared with other personnel positions, riggers were by far more likely to be injured in lifting incidents. These riggers tend to be less experienced than other workers, Mr Watson said, a situation that is exacerbated because the more experienced crew members are so busy they don’t have time for mentoring newer hands.

Further, the SLC found that having a license does not necessarily mean someone is qualified or has the required skills when it comes to lifting operations. “Classroom training alone does not make someone qualified,” Mr Watson said. Experience is something that has to be earned in this industry, and hands-on in-field training is an absolute must, he commented.

The SLC has come up with three sets of recommendations to help reduce/eliminate lifting incidents, issued to operators, trade associations and regulators.

For operators, these recommendations focused on reviewing current lifting programs to address process and procedures as they pertain to training qualifications, lift planning and job safety analyses (JSA’s), communications and stop-job authority.

Operators were also encouraged to support and participate in industry lifting activities and to share information about their lifting incidents and near-misses. “This is not a one-man show. This is a collective effort. Collectively we can do something; singly, we cannot. We’ve got to pool our resources and efforts and communications to make things better,” Mr Watson said.

To trade groups, the SLC recommended that API RP 2D be updated, specifically regarding rigger training, lift planning and JSA’s. Associations were also urged to highlight communication issues, best practices and recommendations to the industry and regulatory bodies. Holding safety conferences would also go toward helping the industry to understand and resolve these issues, the SLC said.

For regulators, one of SLC’s main recommendations was to issue safety alerts and investigative reports in a more timely way. They were also encouraged to update regulatory references to current standards and to support and participate in industry lifting activities.

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