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Planning for Overwater Drilling ~ Three Common Safety Concerns Adapted from Information by Dale Duscher, Cascade Environmental Understanding the unique hazards associated with environmental and geotechnical drilling saves lives. Performing the very same tasks in an over- water setting requires an additional level of detail in planning and execution to ensure the job is completed safely, on-time, and on-budget. Thorough prepa- ration is the first and most crucial step in every overwater drilling project. Three common safety concerns are: barge configuration, crew safety, and spill protection. Barge Configuration: a Anchor the drill rig to the deck. Rotation torque can cause lighter drills to rotate, and too much feed pressure will raise the back of the drill off the barge surface, causing it to slide ahead. D-rings or tie-downs secure the rig to the barge decks. In addition to the drill rig, all tooling should be stored in racks and chained to the barge deck before travel. a Locate the moon hole. The moon hole is an opening in the deck through which the drilling operations are performed. If it’s too close to the edge, the crew’s safe working area is limited and the barge is much less stable. a Mitigate slippery surfaces. The decks of barges are typically metal. When exposed to the inevitable wet conditions, a clear slip hazard arises. This is amplified as temperatures reach freezing and ice forms on deck. Squeegees are great for getting water off the deck, and sand can be used in both winter and summer. (For environmental concerns, ice-melting agents should not be used.) Good housekeeping also pays off - so immediately clean up any spills. a A rescue boat is a must. Just having the tug available is not adequate. A smaller, easier-to-maneuver rescue boat should be accessible at all times. Crew Safety: j Personal protective equipment (PPE) depends on factors such as wind, temperature, and time of year. Drowning is the main hazard while working over water, so personal flotation devices (PFDs or life jackets) are a PPE requirement. They should be a marine type with sufficient weight rating for the crew member, with consideration given to the extra weight and bulk of any clothing. If working at night, the life jackets and survival suits must be equipped with water-activated lights to make them visible in the water. Have extra life jackets in case one being worn gets wet or damaged. A minimum of one extra for every different size being worn should be on hand. Keep an extra supply of the usual PPE. Hard hats, safety glasses, and gloves have all been blown into the water by winds. Leaving the barge to get a replacement hard hat is not the most practical thing, so having spares of these items is a good idea. j Station life rings at appropriate areas along the entire length of the barge, and on both sides. j During cold weather operations, hypothermia is a potential hazard. Survival suits, commonly called mustang suits, pro- tect a person against hypothermic water conditions and are required for cold weather operations. Blankets, towels, and a change of clothes should be kept in a dry place onboard. Ensure the barge is equipped with the proper tools and sup- plies to perform a water extraction should a crew member fall overboard, including a way to warm and protect them from the elements. j Have an evacuation plan and be prepared. Although rare, there are several scenarios in which crews may need to evac- uate the barge. It could be a fire, severe weather, or even a sinking barge. j Overwater scenarios often lend themselves to high winds, and a policy must be in place for defining action levels and stop work limits. A common wind limit is 30 miles per hour. Work may have to be stopped at this point, or controls put into place to help mitigate any hazards caused by high winds, such as extra securement, lifelines, and a change in the drilling method. At wind speeds of 35, a complete stop work is initiated and the crew should seek shelter. j The crew must be trained for the hazards working over water presents, and more experienced operators and assistants should be selected for these jobs. The crew must be trained in CPR and first aid, and have the confidence to use it. Spill Protection: 1 Oil, fuel, or drilling fluids spilled into the water can become a significant environmental incident resulting in substantial financial and ecological damage. All containers carrying environmentally sensitive materials must be kept in secondary containment. This includes all welders, compressors, light plants, and generators. Placing a minimum 6-mil poly sheeting beneath the rig with the sides of the sheeting raised is the first line of defense in spill protection. The containment capacity should exceed the volume of oil the drill holds. Extra oil-absorbent diapers, socks, booms, and plastic bags for holding oil- soaked material should be placed in a readily accessible location, along with a couple of empty drums for holding large amounts of recovered oil. In all cases, a thorough site-specific health and safety plan must be made to address any issues, and the crew must be familiar with its contents. Planning and preparation, along with experience, will make the difference. ENV 34 AUGUST 2020 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® Looking for Events? Go to the online issue at