Dropped objects lead to safety review

Jon Lawson

It’s not only people that can fall; dropped objects also present a considerable safety risk in the oil and gas sector. In the USA, the Dropped Objects Prevention Scheme (DROPS) best practices guidebook is inspiring safety hazard management initiatives, including the first re-usable fastener recommended for secondary retention.

Natural disasters such as raging winds and seas may appear to create the greatest risks to offshore oil platforms and gas rigs, however safety related and life threatening accidents continue to plague operations. A big concern is the growing number of reportable incidents and near misses that occur when overhead objects – equipment and tools – drop from hundreds of feet above a work area due to improper fastening and unreliable means of securing.

Ryan Bostick a Stanley Engineered Fastening technical sales representative who is a fastening specialist with expertise in both oil and gas industries says the all-day technical sessions that are part of the current DROPS initiative, have spawned a new programme called “Train the Trainers”, wherein DROPS experts offer on-site consultations and instruction.

“They cover lighting and tooling and basically anything overhead that could fall and injure workers. That’s where Stanley Engineered Fastening, Spiralock and others come in,” says Bostick,

One volume called Reliable Securing discusses every form of fastening, including rope, wire, welding and soldering. Another name for this fastening reliability is secondary retention. About 90% of the world of fastening recognises secondary retention as a backup plan for the fasteners to make sure they will not come loose and create another dropped object incident.

Primary retention on a nut, bolt or tapped hole typically refers to torque. “If you put a nut and bolt together and you torque them to a specification, you achieve primary retention. But what is your backup plan in case the operator fails to torque it properly? What did you do to back that up?” asks Bostick.

Another concern is fasteners that loosen as a result of vibration and heat (when adhesives are used) in confined spaces offshore and onshore.

For many years, the conventional method of secondary retention was standard locknuts, bonding agents, or safety wire. They all are reliable and accepted, but they are not reusable. Spiralock a product of Stanley Engineered Fastening introduced a reusable locknut and was added as an acceptable secondary retention device to the DROPS book.

Spiralock also introduced the first thread innovation for fasteners since WWII. Their re-engineered thread form adds a 30° wedge ramp at the root of the thread which mates with standard 60° male thread fasteners.

The wedge ramp allows the bolt to spin freely relative to female threads until clamp load is applied. Bostick says: “The free spinning function is important when you are 40ft above ground attempting to torque down a fastener without falling.”  

Spiralock supplied the first re-usable nut to be introduced into the secondary retention world of dropped objects.

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