Although the oil and natural gas refining industry isn't among the top 10 most dangerous types of workplace in the United States, employees in these environments regularly face serious injury hazards.
Regular meetings to discuss the importance of workplace safety are necessary in every work environment, and refineries are no exception. During these meetings, refinery safety topics to cover include issues specific to the refining industry as well as general safety guidelines like:
- Fire safety.
- How to file an accident report.
- What to do when an employee is burned, bleeding or unconscious.
- The dangers of alcohol and drugs on the job.
At every safety meeting, employees should have the opportunity to ask questions.
Specific refinery safety topics to cover are those that directly address the most common causes of refinery worker injuries, such as getting caught between pieces of machinery. Often, workplace talks that go over the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) safety meeting topics like these are known as toolbox talks.
One of the most important health and safety toolbox talks topics to discuss during refinery safety meetings is how to clean up various types of spills correctly. In a refinery, there are many natural and synthetic compounds in use, and these compounds can potentially have corrosive, explosive, toxic or other harmful and deadly qualities. Certain compounds can't just be wiped up or cleaned with water; they may need to be cleaned up with certain other compounds or through specific cleanup procedures, which could involve having a hazardous material remediation specialist come to the refinery to clean up the spill.
When spill cleanup is one of the OSHA safety meeting topics covered, employees should leave the meeting knowing how to prevent spills in the workplace and what to do when any of the compounds at the refinery site are spilled.
Another one of the most important health and safety toolbox talks topics to discuss at a refinery is how to accurately analyze and mitigate the hazards present in the refinery’s environment. Issues to cover when this is one of the primary OSHA safety meeting topics at hand include:
- Previous chemical releases that occurred at the refinery.
- Accidents that happened at other refineries that could occur at the refinery.
- What to do in the event of a chemical accident.
- The accident prevention policies and protocols in place.
In a refinery, workers are often exposed to toxic fumes, harmful chemical compounds and, in some environments, blinding lights and deafening noises. Safety meetings should cover not just the importance of wearing protective safety gear but also how to wear it correctly and how to identify faulty or damaged safety gear. When workers have subpar safety equipment, they face the risk of being severely injured or even disabled or killed on the job.
According to OSHA, three out of every five refinery worker deaths are due to being caught between, caught in or struck by a piece of heavy machinery. Vehicle accidents are also a common cause of injury and death for refinery workers. With these facts and statistics in mind, refinery safety meetings should cover the importance of using vehicles and heavy machinery safely and responsibly.
OSHA publishes multiple pages and guidelines specifically about safe vehicle and heavy machinery use in the refining industry. Supervisors can use this information and the statistics contained within it to drive their safety talks.
It can be easy to overlook important refinery safety topics during safety talks, so before ending a meeting, the supervisor should always ask the team if they have any questions about the health and safety toolbox talks topics covered or any other issues they're facing at work.