Rig Floor Dropped Object Prevention

There are many moving objects and a high potential for dropped objects around the rig floor environment. It does not matter if you are on a land rig or an offshore rig, a conventional or cyber rig. There are many overhead objects that have the potential to vibrate, jar, torque, rotate or in some way come free and become a projectile. If a wrench/tool/equipment weighing 2 pounds were dropped from the monkey board area (80 feet), this could result in a fatality calculated with a Dropped Object Consequence Calculator. I will be discussing several preventative measures that should be included in your management systems. Think of a jigsaw puzzle, you need at least five pieces (4 corners and a centerpiece) to anchor down the rest of the “Dropped Object Prevention Scheme” (DROPS) puzzle.

The first corner piece is hazard identification. This is a seemingly simple process, but in reality, hazard identification will involve ample planning when you consider operational restrictions. Most organizations utilize a 3rd party contractor who specialize in this type of operation and will conduct a dropped object survey consisting of identifying, photographing and cataloging all potential dropped objects. Typically, the contractor will be rope access certified (IRATA) and have templates for creating new or updating an existing register. This is a great service and a very practical solution if you are just getting started. As a side note, you should have a dropped object survey that encompasses the entire rig, such as substructure, machinery deck, main deck, cranes, or help desk.

The inspection will be the second corner piece. After you have identified your hazards, you will need to create an inspection schedule. The 3rd party requirements can vary depending on regional requirements and budgetary constraints. However, it is typically required to have a full 3rd party survey conducted annually (at a minimum) with other internal surveys as deemed appropriate. Internal surveys and/or inspections can vary drastically depending on operations, but it is best to have different types of inspections that vary in their degree of complexity. For instance, if you have been in tight bole and jarring, as soon as the pipe is free and you were back in the shoe, you would want to conduct a thorough survey from the crown to the rig floor. During “normal” operations, it is standard to have a weekly inspection and then typically a more thorough quarterly inspection. Whatever you decide, make sure a competent person conducts the inspections.

Dropped object considerations should also include routine and unplanned maintenance. This will be the third corner piece. When inspecting or servicing the top drive, pipe racking system, service loops, tong weight buckets, lights or any other suspended equipment, you should include items such as the following:

  • bolt/nut retention wires
  • proper lubrication of moving or rotating equipment
  • secondary retention cables (suspended items such as lights)
  • proper torquing of bolts and safety pins in shackles

It is always a good idea to include comments, highlighting dropped object prevention, on the actual work orders to provide an additional safeguard. This brings me to dropped tools and equipment while conducting the maintenance activities. I won’t dwell on this particular subject, but I will say, it is imperative to have a working aloft policy in place to address these issues. I will address this issue later in the article.

Drop zones and their identification are another important piece of the puzzle. If you are unsure about drop zones (dropped object hazard zones), a competent 3rd party contractor can provide assistance. Another good resource for this information is http://dropsonline.org. Some organizations will use a risk classification system of a “red zone.” Others will use a “traffic light” system where the risk coincides with the color of the following zone:

  • red=severe
  • yellow=moderate
  • green=improbable

A typical example would be to paint an appropriately sized red square or circle around the rotary, from the rotary to the v-door and then down the v-door ramp and catwalk. This serves as a visual reminder to anyone entering the area; it is a red zone, and non-essential personnel should stay clear. Temporary drop, or “red,” zones also need to be addressed. These are areas where work aloft may be undertaken, but only on a temporary basis. Take, for example, man-riding. If you have man-riding operations in the Port Aft corner of the derrick, you will highlight the work area (danger tape with appropriate signage) to prevent people from walking into/underneath the workspace.

Moreover, now for the center piece, dropped objects prevention policy, education, and enforcement, if you do not have a guiding policy, then your attempts will be confused and counter-productive. As with anything of importance, spend the time, show due diligence, seek assistance and get this right. Your policy should be inclusive of working aloft tools, working aloft registers and secondary retention. There are several good tool systems designed specifically for working aloft and include lanyards for safely attaching the tools.

Once you create the policy, then it must be cascaded. You will need to educate your employees to a level of competent understanding. This process should follow change management principles. After the policies are written, personnel are trained, information cascaded, and systems implemented then you will move to the enforcement and continual improvement process. This is the same as any other project and should be managed as such, and you should consider using Plan-Do-Check-Act. If you have questions or if this is a new subject to your organization, there are many internet and consulting resources available, or you can always contact me directly via the comment section below. Best of luck, now get out there and keep them safe.