Managing ‘snaky’ situations in West Texas

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
A western diamondback rattlesnake pictured at one of Trinidad’s West Texas rig sites

Hey, we get it. Being tough is an unwritten roughneck prerequisite, so you’re not about to get scared off by a snake or two on the lease.

Right….

To all those who have jumped out of their skin after being startled by a rattlesnake hiding under rig matting – your secret’s safe with us.

Working around venomous snakes is a reality West Texas rig hands have to be prepared for.

“Western diamondbacks, coral snakes, tarantulas, scorpions…you name ‘em, we’ve got ‘em in West Texas,” said Marco Rocha, our HSE supervisor based out of Midland, Texas.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas has over 105 species and subspecies of snakes, but only 15 of them are potentially dangerous to humans.

“It’s no secret; they are everywhere out here,” said Marco.

That’s why it’s important for our crews to be on the lookout for snakes and to be well-prepared when they come across one.

If you scare or threaten a venomous snake, you’re going to have a bad time

Snakebites are rare, but they do happen if a snake feels threatened or provoked.

Marco has seen firsthand the punch a venomous snake can pack. Before starting his career in safety, he roughnecked for 12 years throughout the southern United States.

“While I was working for another contractor, one of our motorhands was bitten by a small rattlesnake at the rig when he was opening a water valve.”

Thanks to the team’s well-executed emergency response plan, the motorman was on a Halo flight to San Antonio, Texas within an hour. Luckily, he made it through and was released from the hospital three days later.

Where do snakes hideout at the rig?

Most of our snake encounters happen:

  • around vehicles parked at the lease;
  • under rig matting or pallets;
  • in the substructure area where drilling chemicals are kept; or
  • by the mud tanks.

Marco’s tried-and-true tips on safely managing snakes at the rig

“If you see a snake on site, remain calm, back away slowly and let it continue on its way,” advised Marco.

Then report the encounter to your Rig Manager. If you see one snake, there are likely more around.

Here’s what else you can do:

  • Keep a clean and organized rig. Clean rigs mean fewer rodents, and fewer rodents mean less snakes. A tidy rig also makes spotting snakes a lot easier.
  • Always have a flashlight with you to check for snakes when working in low light areas around the rig (ex. before you move a pallet).
  • Pay attention to your hand and foot placement when checking for snakes, as those are the most commonly bitten areas.
  • Don’t keep your work boots outside, and always check your boots for critters before you put them on.
  • Snake repellants can be used if there is a snake issue at the rig – they hate that stuff.

If bitten, initiate the rig’s emergency response plan immediately.

“All snakebites must be treated as an emergency,” Marco stressed.

You can learn more from Texas Park and Wildlife on what to do and NOT to do if bitten by a snake.

Our rig crews are in good hands away from home

A second-generation roughneck, Marco knows what it’s like waiting on loved ones to return home from the rigs. His personal experience is why he’s committed to safety.

“I want to see everyone return home safely to their families,” Marco concluded, “just as my dad always did.”

Stay tuned for more wildlife safety blogs in weeks to come. In the meantime, you can learn more about Trinidad’s safety mentality, tools and programs with these ‘safety at work’ blogs.

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