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Hot work still a critical issue

Welding, cutting, shearing and grinding involve in part considerable exposure to chemicals. ”It is now important that the industry increases its efforts related to collective and technical barriers – measures that will reduce actual exposure to chemicals during hot work.”

This was stated by discipline leader Sigvart Zachariassen from the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA), who opened the OLF seminar on hot work on Thursday, 12 March.

Results from the Hot Work project were presented here, including a demonstration of protection against chemical exposure with various respiratory protective equipment.

Important knowledge
”As long as personal protective equipment is a necessary barrier, it is important to know as much as possible about the equipment and its use. Personal protective equipment will continue to be a barrier against injuries in the foreseeable future,” says the discipline leader.

 “Nevertheless, and at the same time, the industry must intensify its commitment to collective and technical measures that will reduce actual chemical exposure. Examples of this are the introduction and use of remote control, machines and robots so that personnel need not work close to the energy,” says Zachariassen.

He also points to the HSE regulations, where the prioritisation of collective and technical measures is a stipulated principle.
Important knowledge

Several factors were identified that led to the work being stopped when the Frigg facilities were removed in 2006. This formed the background for the industry’s implementation of the Hot Work project, most recently linked to the industry project Chemical Working Environment in the Oil and Gas Industry.

On Thursday the results were presented at the industry seminar – including STAMI’s (National Institute of Occupational Heath’s) research into ICA and fine particles and pulmonary function. TOTAL gave an account of various respiratory protective equipment for isocyanates, and ExxonMobil presented so-called face-fit testing of masks.

Reduced exposure
”Personal protective equipment will entail uncertainty and a source of error, and never provide an adequate safety level. A prerequisite is correct use of the equipment by the individual,” says the discipline leader. He emphasizes that exhaust, smoke and particles only are one of several elements in an overall risk picture.

“A welder may be exposed to a number of risk factors such as noise, radiation and static work positions. The industry must therefore make an overall evaluation and also take account of the framework conditions – time pressure, working hours arrangements and contractual conditions – that impact the risk for various employee groups,” Zachariassen emphasises.

Groups exposed to risk are among the PSA’s main priorities in 2009. The PSA will have a strong focus on the topic, both in the form of audits and through the aid of transfer of experience and initiating research. The purpose is to develop an overall picture of risk for occupationally contingent injuries and illnesses for various groups in the petroleum industry.

The PSA will also contribute to ensuring that the knowledge is used actively in a risk-based approach where efforts are directed towards those groups where the need and effects are the greatest.

Contact person in the PSA:
John Arne Ask
E-mail: john.ask@ptil.no