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Offshore safety inspections lead to alert on welding and burning


Fire spread to the living quarters following the removal of the heliport substructural frame using cutting torches. Photo: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

Washington — Recent Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement performance-based risk inspections have uncovered “several critical issues” related to welding and burning operations, according to an agency safety alert.

BSEE examined compliance and incident data since 2022 and found “multiple high potential fires” that stemmed from welding and burning. Those fires triggered onsite targeted inspections of 13 production facilities and nine well operation facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

In many cases, fire protection barriers such as tarps, curtains and blankets either were improperly placed or damaged, presenting a safety risk. In one case, evidence showed hot slag from a cutting torch penetrated the underside blanket barrier of a living-quarters building. Residual heat likely triggered an ignition of the wood subfloor.

Other findings:

  • Workers weren’t following safe welding and hot work procedures. Hot work was being conducted in areas located within 35 feet of equipment containing hydrocarbons. Also, hot work permits and job safety analyses listed the same person to perform both the fire watch and hot work.
  • Inadequate housekeeping practices were observed, such as flammable sources (cardboard boxes, for example) being stored within 35 feet of hot work areas.
  • Prevention tools, including fire extinguishers and portable gas detectors, weren’t properly identified as necessary.
  • Operations were conducted without an approved safe welding plan, suggesting a need for comprehensive safety measures, planning and training.

Among BSEE’s recommendations:

  • Take all necessary precautions to control, remove or otherwise correct any hazardous oil and gas accumulation or other hazards.
  • Ensure workers can understand and perform their jobs in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
  • Require operators and contractors to attend and participate in a JSA meeting before work begins, and ensure the supervisors of all phases of the work know and understand the complete scope of the job.

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