Oklahoma Energy Industry Struggles with Flame-Resistent Clothing Rule

Article excerpt

A federal policy requiring oil and natural gas workers to wear flame-resistant clothing has the state energy sector seeing red.

On March 19 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued guidelines that say once an active gas or hydrocarbon zone is reached, flame-resistant clothing (FRC) must be worn by exposed employees working on the well site. The rule is for workers at oil and gas well drilling, servicing and production-related operations.

Flame-resistant clothing should also be worn when there is a history of fluid or gas "kicks" from underground producing zones. Also, employees should wear the FRC until the final casing is cemented.

The requirement could cost companies $3,000 per employee per year, said Joyce Ryel, industrial safety director for Enid-based Complete Production Services.

Ryel spoke to oil and gas company executives attending the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association fall meeting at the Tulsa Renaissance Hotel on Sunday.

The OSHA data does not support FRC being worn for all tasks, said Kim Kohler, OIPA special projects director.

The industry wants to protect employees from the true hazardous situations, Kohler said.

Industry officials opposed to blanket ruling have fallen into three distinct camps, Ryel said. One group is set to adopt the FRC rules. A second group is looking at mounting a legal challenge, while a third group is preparing to battle the rules legislatively through the U.S. Congress.

In oil and gas drilling, there is a low potential for flash fires during rig-up operations and during drilling operations that have not reached gas and hydrocarbon-producing zones. The potential for flash fires increases when the drilling process hits formations or zones of hydrocarbons and gas. …