By Alex Endress, Editorial Coordinator
Despite significant efforts by many drilling contractors and operators, the drilling industry still has a long way to go in reducing dropped object incidents, Shell Deepwater Wells HSE Manager Joseph Murphy said at the 2015 IADC HSE&T Conference 3 February in Houston. He explained that many companies have invested resources in preventing drops but may not understand what currently causes the majority of dropped objects. “We have perhaps raised awareness, which I think we’ve done a very good job of, but the problem is still there,” Mr Murphy said. “Dropped objects are still harming and still killing.”
After Shell implemented its Dropped Object Prevention Scheme (DROPS) in 2009, the company saw four consecutive years of reduction in potentially fatal dropped object incidents, from 2010 to 2013. However, last year, the operator saw a 34% increase in those events even while manhours decreased by 17%. Shell began to question why drops increased in the face of significant prevention efforts.
What Shell found was that companies commonly focus on static drops, in which objects at a fixed height fall. Dynamic drops, in which objects fall due to a collision of some sort, have not received nearly as much attention. Shell’s DROPS program was no different upon its initial implementation. “If you look at our DROPS standard and you look at DROPS performed, predominately, I think it was focused on static drops,” Mr Murphy said.
There’s also a common assumption that static drops cause the majority of high-potential dropped object incidents. However, companies are now realizing that dynamic drops have become much more frequent. Mr Murphy said an analysis from 2014 concluded that 30% of drops in Shell’s Wells organization were static, while 70% were dynamic. Moreover, it was found that 80% of high-potential drops incidents were dynamic-related. “Over time, we’ve gotten to a good place in the static area. We’re just starting now to learn the dynamics around the dynamic drops.”
Dynamic drops primarily fall into four categories: lifting and hoisting, tubular handling, derrick traveling equipment and working at height. One major reason attributed to the increase in dynamic drops is bigger and more pieces of equipment being moved on already crowded drilling rigs. Mr Murphy advised companies to take another look at their lifting practices to improve lift planning and pre-lift inspections. Further, accountability must be clear – the person in charge of the load lift can’t simply be whoever is speaking the loudest, he said. “We have to be clear about who’s in charge when we’re doing lifting and hoisting.”
Mr Murphy also stressed the importance of drilling contractors taking ownership of drops prevention on their drilling rigs. Shell found that from 2013-2014, 60% of its potentially fatal drops came from only five contractors, out of more than 50 identified contractors around the world. Further, only one in five of Shell’s “at risk” contractors have a documented drops program in place, Mr Murphy noted. “If you want to get serious, then we all have to do our part and own the program. It’s got to be a part of your management system,” he said.
Outlining Shell’s roadmap for drops prevention over the next few years, Mr Murphy said the company will work to enhance efforts around dynamic drops while not losing ground on static drops. “We need to increase our understanding and our controls on dynamic drops… We’re also going to redo our DROPS manual this year to more effectively manage the dynamic drops exposure. Then, we’re going to re-engage with our contractors and do a better job of empowering, supporting and giving the tools necessary to help everyone that’s still on the journey to have a full drops compliance program in place.”