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Oil and Gas Industry







Health and safety are important responsibilities that every industry must consider. Health and safety are serious risks that companies face. These risks directly and indirectly affect business operations. Consequently, for a company to grow and prosper, it is pertinent that risks are effectively managed, because by managing business risks, an organisation's health, assets and opportunities will be secured and taken full advantage of (Kubitscheck, 2000). 

Logically, the oil and gas industry is one of the riskiest industries when it comes to health and safety of employees. Interruptions in oil production caused by fires and accidents easily lead to significant economic losses, and potential hazards to humans and the environment (Ahlang, 2005). Employees are also endangered to infectious disease, foodborne/waterborne illness, and wildlife and vector induced disease (Markussen, 2003). Working in oil refineries basically exposes employees to benzene and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material or NORM – substances that are dangerous to health (Markussen, 2003).


There is an abundance of literature that discusses these occupational health and safety issues in the oil and gas industry. The aim of this study is to expand that issue by collating and reviewing useful and related literatures. It also aims to identify the different safety and health management policies that oil and gas companies in the UK implements. Determining the different safety and health problems and the types of policies to counter those is helpful in drawing an overall picture of the situation, enabling the researcher to provide recommendations on how safety and health management can be improved in oil and gas companies in the UK.





            The oil and gas industry faces many criticisms when it comes to health and safety of its employees. This is due to the numerous activities within the industry that include chemical use for various processes (Cottle and Guidotti, 1990). These include: drilling, cementing, completion, stimulation, and production (Cottle and Guidotti, 1990). The occupational hazards of exposure to these agents have received little attention, as well as the types of health and safety strategies that firms implement. Thus, this study will identify descriptively the occupational safety and health issues in the oil and gas industry and the policies that companies use.


            The study will try to answer the following questions:


1.                  What are the health and safety issues in the oil and gas industry?

2.                  What are the health and safety policies that oil and gas companies implement?

3.                  What are the challenges that oil and gas companies face in the prevention of hazards and accidents?

4.                  What can be recommended to improve the health and safety practices in the oil and gas industry?





            The aim of the study is to identify the health and safety issues in the oil and gas industry through descriptive research. Its aim is to develop new insights about how the industry handles health and safety issues, and how effective are their policies.


            The study will address the following objectives:

1.                  Conduct a comprehensive literature search on the different health and safety issues in the oil and gas industry, including the dangerous chemicals involve and other hazards.

2.                  Conduct an interview on oil and gas industry managers and ask them about the different policies they implement to promote health and safety within their workplace.

3.                  To categorize the data collected and analyze them using statistical and non-statistical means.

4.                  To provide recommendations about how the health and safety policies of oil and gas companies in the UK can be improved.





            The results that will be collated from this study may be useful in improving the health and safety practice of oil and gas companies. Because this study will provide descriptive knowledge, oil and gas companies in the UK will have a solid reference, to which they can use as a guide to improve their health and safety practices.


            The results of the study may also find some new issues concerning health and safety practices in the oil and gas industry, which may lead to future research.





            One of the most related literatures for this study is the research entitled: "Process chemicals in the oil and gas industry: potential occupational hazards" (Cottle and Guidotti, 1990). In this research, Cottle and Guidotti (1990), reviewed various processes in the industry, the type of chemicals used in each process, and some of their characteristics. However, the research emphasized more on those for which significant toxicity has been established or is suspected, and those for which there is incomplete information on their chemistry and health hazards.


            Another related literature that may be useful in the study is the study of Fuller and Bassie (2001) entitled: "Benchmarking the safety climates of employees and contractors working within a partnership arrangement: A case study in the offshore oil industry". The research strategy used in this research was case study, which reports a benchmark assessment of employee and contractor safety climates in an offshore oil company that operated contractor partnership agreements in the North Sea. In summary, the results obtained indicated that safety climates could be aligned in organisations that operate partnership agreements within a recognised health and safety management system (Fuller and Bassie, 2001).

Verma, Johnson and McLean (2000) conducted a study about the benzene and total hydrocarbon exposures in the upstream petroleum oil and gas industry and found several safety concern issues. The study was based on the Canadian Oil and Gas Industry, and a total of 1547 air samples taken by 5 oil companies in various sectors (i.e., conventional oil/gas, conventional gas, heavy oil processing, drilling and pipelines) were evaluated and summarized. Although the study was not focused in the oil and gas industry in Saudi Arabia, it still provided results that can be generalized for the whole oil and gas industry around the world. For instance, it found the percentage of samples are over the occupational exposure limit (OEL) of 3.2 mg/m3 or one part per million for benzene, for personal long-term samples ranges from 0 to 0.7% in the different sectors, and area long-term samples range from 0 to 13%. On the other hand, for short-term personal samples, the exceedance for benzene is at 5% with respect to the OEL of 16 mg/m3 or five parts per million in the conventional gas sector and none in the remaining sectors. The findings help establish a precaution to the global oil and gas industry that certain operations such as glycol dehydrators be carefully monitored and that a task-based monitoring program be included along with the traditional long- and short-term personal exposure sampling.


            Another study that reflects the safety procedures in the oil and gas industry in general is the study conducted by Fuller and Vassie (2001), which reports a benchmark assessment of employee and contractor safety climates in an offshore oil company that operated contractor partnership agreements in the North Sea. Questionnaires were used in the study to assess safety climates in terms of employees' and contractors' perceptions of safety management, workplace conditions and safety concerns. The results showed that safety climates could be aligned in organizations that operate partnership agreements within a recognized health and safety management system. Fuller and Vassie (2001) suggested that the approach presented is appropriate for benchmarking safety climates before and after partnership arrangements have been established in order to determine the level of cultural alignment that has been achieved.

Markussen (2003) enumerated several effects on employee health that a geological survey/seismic operation can produce. Employees are endangered of infectious disease; foodborne/waterborne illness; wildlife & vector; induced disease; and noise. On the other hand, oil and gas production causes chemical and physical agent exposure, specifically on drilling mud; petroleum products; treatment chemicals; radioactive sources; NORM*; solvents; metals; temperature (heat/cold); silica/asbestos; noise/vibration; and PCB's. Markussen (2003) concluded that all risks must be identified and managed through wisely incorporated resources in order for quality operations to be long lasting.

Al Khafji Joint Operations is one of the known oil and gas companies in Saudi Arabia. In the Annual Safety Report 2005 of Al Khafji Joint Operations (2006), the company made some improvements such as the Inspection Equipment Program, Project Monitoring, and Modification of Permit to Work System. There was also a company-wide safety campaign program, updating of emergency response team and plan, evacuation drills and safety and fire training.

The company has medical services ready in case of emergency. The medical facility of KJO is equipped with modern technologies and trained nurses and doctors (KJO, 2006). The company also has a program for employees that empower them to share their views and opinions on health and safety issues in the company. 

KJO also takes importance in monitoring and preventing oil spills. The following are the "spill readiness" strategy of KJO: ensure that company response to oil spills is prompt, efficient and cost-effective; ensure company readiness and response to oil spills through training courses and drills; monitor, evaluate and advise on national and international oil spill legislation; assure the continual development and update of oil spill contingency plans; to analyze the environmental impacts during an oil spill and to advise on the most suitable response option to be applied; and perform routine (and during oil spills) inspection duties in the offshore area and the beach areas. The company also implements a waste management plan on spills, as well as initiatives on preventing air and water pollution (KJO, 2006).

Another oil and gas company in Saudi Arabia that takes importance on safety and health issues is the Saudi Aramco. For instance, the company's health plans for its employees come in three folds: primary prevention; secondary prevention; and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention involves food and water sanitation, immunization against communicable diseases, and water fluoridation. Secondary prevention involves screening programs, such as neonatal examinations for congenital hip dislocation, periodic mammography, glaucoma, blood pressure screening, etc. Also, occupational screening programs are performed, which include hearing conservation (audiometric testing), pulmonary protection (asbestos, silica mitigation), and radiation protection. Finally, tertiary prevention involves minimizing the complications of disease or injury (Saudi Arabian Oil Company, 2006).

In terms of waste management, Saudi Aramco has constructed several industrial waste treatment plants, which include separators to treat oily water, landfarms to treat oily sludge, dedicated asbestos disposal areas, and on-site oxidation of pyrophoric waste (Saudi Arabian Oil Company, 2006). The company also invests on recyling and contingency plans to prevent oil spills. Also, like KJO, Saudi Aramco takes importance on the air and water conditions in its vicinity. Air and water pollution plans are also being implemented to ensure that employees are free from the dangers that be brought by such pollutions.




            The research will be descriptive research. Research strategies that will be used include case study, interviews and literature search. The study plans to interview managers of oil and gas companies in the UK to determine safety and health issues, as well as their standard policies toward it. Two oil and gas industries will also be covered for the case study, and an in-depth literature review will be performed.





            The proposal hopes to reveal the different problems of the oil and gas companies in the UK when it comes to health and safety issues. This may include the different legislations that companies have to follow, the different areas within oil and gas companies that require extra attention for health and safety purposes, the different chemicals that may have harmful effects to employees, etc. It is expected that the study will give unique answers from each respondents, depending on the size of their company, as well as their daily operations.













Ahlang, S. (2005). Safety issues in the oil & gas industry. Energy News, No.22


Al Khafji Joint Operations (2006). Online, Available at:  [Accessed: 03/29/07].


Cottle, M.K. and Guidotti, T.M. (1990). Process chemicals in the oil and gas industry: potential occupational hazards. Toxicol Ind Health, Vol.6, No.1; pp.41-56.


Fuller, C.W. and Bassie, L.H. (2001). Benchmarking the safety climates of employees and contractors working within a partnership arrangement: A case study in the offshore oil industry. Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol.8, No.5; pp.413-430.

Kubitscheck, V. (2000). Risk Management: Finding The Value Within. In          Balance Sheet, Vol. 8, No. 5.

Markussen, R.W. (2003). Occupational and Public Health Issues in the Oil and Gas Industry: Emerging Trends and Needs for Emphasis (online). Available at: [Accessed: 03/10/06].


Saudi Aramco (2006). Online, Available at:

[Accessed: 03/29/06].


Verma, D.A., Johnson, D.M. and McLean, J.D. (2000). Benzene and total hydrocarbon exposures in the upstream petroleum oil and gas industry. AIHAJ, Vol.61, No.2; pp.255-63.


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