Rig safety: how to stay safe during tornado season

Trinidad Drilling Rig 137

According to U.S. Tornadoes, an average of 1,224 tornadoes touch down each year across the United States. With Texas being the hottest spot for twister activity, and the majority of our U.S. rig fleet drilling there, tornado safety is always on our radar.

HSE Field Coordinator, Alex Cavazos, has been preparing rig crews for severe weather for the last five years. A native of Texas, Alex understands the affects severe weather can have on a worksite.

“As with any safety-sensitive situation, the best way to handle severe weather is to be proactive and well-prepared,” explained Alex.

Keep reading for his team’s safety tips at the rig when the skies take a turn for the worse.

Tornado detection

Here are five signs a tornado may be brewing:

  • A dark, sometimes green sky
  • Swirling winds or quick wind shifts
  • Stark calm after a heavy rainfall
  • Towering cumulonimbus clouds with a strong rotation that persists
  • A roar or tumbling sound that does not fade (similar to the sound of a freight train)

Tornado season safety tips

1. Know your tornado emergency response plan. Tornadoes can form quickly, often with little or no warning. Be sure you know what is expected of you in emergencies, according to the company’s policies and procedures.

2. Know the difference between tornado watches and warnings. Watches mean conditions are favourable for a tornado. Warnings mean a tornado has been reported or picked up on radar.

Trinidad Rig Managers will initiate our Severe Weather Contingency Plan during a tornado warning if any of the above signs are observed. This plan provides specific instructions for our crews, including where to muster and where to find shelter during the emergency.

3. Remain calm. Arguably easier said than done, but a necessity in safety-sensitive situations. Rig Managers will stay up-to-date on tornado alerts as part of their daily routine. Should emergency action be required, they will be the ones to make the call.

4. Rig Managers: keep senior management in the loop. If time permits and it is safe to do so, ensure line management is aware of the situation at the rig. Doing so will ensure help is ready.

5. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE). If a tornado warning is in effect and the Rig Manager has initiated the emergency response plan, keep your PPE on and stay low to the ground to protect yourself from flying debris.

6. Take shelter in a secure, enclosed building at the rig, like the VFD house. Stay low to the floor, away from windows, and cover your head and neck with your hands for protection. Stay inside until the Rig Manager has determined it is safe to exit the shelter.

7. Avoid taking shelter in temporary buildings such as trailers on site, if possible. Okay, one might argue all buildings on site are temporary, but we’re talking about avoiding camps or portable skid-mounted buildings on site that Rig Managers or consultants stay in.

8. Find low ground, away from trees, vehicles or other tools or equipment if there isn’t enough time to get to a secure building for shelter. Wait with your face down and your hands around your head and neck for protection.

You can never be too prepared

Whether you’re working in extreme heat in Saudi Arabia, harsh winter winds in northern British Columbia, or tornado season in Texas, you can never be too prepared for what Mother Nature may come up with next.

Read up on more of our weather-related safety blogs here:

Note: This blog does not reflect all Trinidad’s safety policies and procedures in relation to severe weather. If you’re an employee, please see our Severe Weather Contingency Plan for Field Locations.

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