While at work in the oilfields it is critically important to stay focused at the work at hand. If a worker’s focus becomes distracted then the worker can unwittingly become exposed to existing and developing hazards. It’s important to understand the possible distractions so that they can be mitigated.
When things happen quickly, a sharp loud noise can be created. These startling noises can break a worker’s concentration momentarily. More commonly, the presence of constant motor and pump noise can make it difficult to hear instructions from other members of the crew. On some rig crews this is a constant struggle to maintain communication. Most frac crews have overcome this problem by using earmuffs with a radio communications system.
Any type of drug can possibly cause impairment to an oilfield worker. This includes legitimate prescription drugs from a doctor. It’s important that all workers check with their employer when using a new medication to make sure that it will be ok to be used without risk. Recreational drugs are not permitted. Mandatory drug tests are used to make sure that workers are complying. Even if a worker is not currently using drugs lingering hangover effects can still decrease focus and cause problems.
When we are fighting with our loved ones this can cause lots of stress and anguish. Losing someone close can be even more difficult. “Leave it at home” is the mantra that many workplaces espouse to try to keep the problems from home from causing problems in the workplace. Some people are the type that they can bury themselves in work and not think about the troubles that are happening personally. Most people cannot do this when the personal stress is severe. This clouds the mind and distracts thoughts from work to the stress. It is better to take some time off to confront these stresses rather than to risk someone getting hurt at work.
Long hours and hard work wears down the body and also the mind. When the mind is worn down from fatigue there is a lowered level of concentration available to manage the work. Attention also starts to shift from the task at hand to the soreness of working the body so hard. The risks of fatigue are the reason why truck drivers have to keep logs and limit their hours. Labor laws require short breaks throughout the day. Some worksites have also specific policies limiting how long a worker can work until a long rest period must be taken.
Lack of sleep has a similar feeling to fatigue with the additional risk of drifting off to sleep at an unfortunate time. Night shifts take time away from sleeping and disrupt the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the body’s natural tendency to sleep at night and be awake during the day. It is at a minimum a stressful experience when this rhythm is reversed and people are awake at night and asleep during the day. Some workers find it more difficult than others to sleep during the day than others.
The antidote to distraction is awareness. Awareness is most importantly about being able to recognize hazards before they become incidents. It is an active process, a mindset that we all must practice and strengthen every day. When a worker has a good level of awareness it can decrease the risks of distraction. Some distractions cannot be removed entirely, but when we are aware of them we can assess what kind of risks distractions pose to us.
Recommended Training: South Texas SafeLand
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