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Occupational health and safety is considered as one of those critical subjects that are taken for granted, often owing to the sensitivity and gravity of the matter. People lose their limbs or their lives at work every day, while others are sent home with terminal illnesses owing to the exposures that they get while on the job. Generally, the workplace is a very critical environment in the health and safety of an employee as an individual. This is why most governments in the world have a set of rules and regulations that are aimed at protecting the working class citizens from any hazardous conditions within their work environment. In the industrial sector, the stakes are even higher with a very disturbing number of deaths and disabilities resulting from occupational accidents, which could be prevented if the companies in question upheld the set regulations. However, there are incidents where the regulations have been respected and the safety standards upheld, and yet the company still registers a high number of accidents amongst their employees. Therefore, the main concern is to investigate how companies, especially in industrial sectors, are making the workplace a safe environment for their employees. The UAE is especially wealthy in the oil and gas industry owing to its favorable location in the Gulf. The abundance of oil means that the nation has a big number of companies that are specializing in exploration, drilling, and refining the crude oil for sale in other parts of the world. In order to protect the UAE citizens from occupational accidents, it is important to understand how the health and safety regulations within the UAE are improving the working environment within these companies. The majority of the Emirati populace work in oil and gas companies, and ADCO is a credible case study for the industry. With years of experience in the industry, ADCO is likely to provide a good insight into the occupational health and safety practices of the Emirati oil and gas industry. With the concept of globalization on the business front, the need for businesses to adhere to international standards is evident, and the main question for this study will be whether UAE oil and gas companies are safe for their employees to work in, based on the international standards of occupational health and safety.
This study is about the state of occupational health and safety in the UAE and beyond, and it focuses on the oil and gas industry. As such, the required information is mainly regarding the health and safety regulations that are applicable in the international oil and gas industry and those that are enforced in the UAE as well as how much effort the oil and gas companies are actually putting in to ensure that their employees are safe. To provide clarity, the research also requires information on occupational accidents that occur within the oil and gas industry and whether or not these are preventable, as well as the violations of health and safety regulations that are likely to result in fatal or life threatening accidents (Victor, Hults & Thurber, 2011). All these data are significant in establishing the importance of health and safety regulations to the employers and their employees as well as to the government and international business community.
Most of the information mentioned above can be easily found online, through company websites, and interest group statistics. Occupational health and safety is a problematic subject in most circles, and thus, there is an abundance of discussions on it (Wien, 2013). This presents a challenge with respect to finding credible sources for this study. Since not any sources are admissible for an academic study of this caliber, there is a need to stick to the peer reviewed publications and credible sources from renowned news and company websites. This means that, in order to find most of the information, the researcher will use professional databases and official company websites in the search for accurate statistics and other relevant information. It must be realized that, while there is a lot of information regarding the topic at hand, the study needs credible sources that are not only accurate but also verifiable.
The main data collection method will be a content analysis where the selected publications, news articles, and press releases will be scrutinized for words like health and safety regulations, occupational health and safety, industrial safety regulations, industrial health and safety, safety within the work environment, occupational safety and occupational accidents as well as accidents at work (NIOSH, 2010). The idea here is to find as much information on the subject as possible before processing the information and starting to absorb the relevant data that will then be presented in the study. The challenge will be in assessing, understanding, and presenting the collected information with minimal distortion and absolute accuracy. For this to be assured, the researcher, in this case, will take a neutral and objective position that will enable them to present information as it is and not to insert their opinion in the literature review but rather to wait until the data analysis stage (Wise Global Training Ltd, 2014). The context here is that the oil and gas industry has a set of industry regulations on occupational health and safety, and the companies that keep registering fatalities must have an explanation on what happens within their walls that hinders the regulations from protecting their employees.
Occupational Health and Safety in the Global Oil and Gas Industry
Occupational health and safety is mainly about the kind of environment that employees are exposed to during their working hours. The concept of occupational health and safety is to protect these employees and their families from any work-related circumstances that could be harmful to them in one way or another. With this in mind, it can be assumed that there are very many contexts of occupational health and safety in the world, especially in light of the oil and gas industry.
First, this industry involves some of the most dangerous substances that have flammable and explosive nature. Most oil industries are marked with numerous warnings on the danger of explosion or combustion, and the employees are generally well-informed on what they need to do and what they should not do when on the premises. As such, it may be taken for granted that the employees are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities within the industry at all times. The industrial health and safety aspects in most parts of the world actually require the employer to take their employees through a thorough induction training session that will help them fit in and be fully informed (International Labor Organization, 2015). Most companies, however, skip the training and simply provide their new employees with safety pamphlets that they are not likely to read. This is attributed to the tight schedules that these companies often have, disinterest in adhering to set rules and regulations, and the fact that most employees are more comfortable learning on the job than reading endless manuals on safety regulations. Therefore, the best oil and gas companies from a global perspective are those that require their employees to complete an induction course on health and safety and frequent refresher courses on industrial regulations, which are meant to keep them safe within the workplace.
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In the previous years, a higher number of industrial accidents were the result of fatigue and exhaustion amongst the employees (International Labor Organization, 2015). These accidents included being hit by heavy machinery, being run over by trucks at the work site, and falling asleep on the job thus failing to execute the required commands. The last one did not just endanger the employee in question but also everyone else at the work site and its environs. This means that it is to be globally acceptable for workers in the oil and gas industry to work for a set number of hours and get adequate rest for optimum alertness. The health of employees is as important to them as it is to their employer. This means that the companies in this industry need to limit the working hours of their staff and give them manageable shifts that will allow for adequate rest. The problem is that most companies seek to hire employees who are so willing to work that they can compromise on their rest to improve their ratings at work. The employee, in this case, may be seeking to consolidate their job security, but they only end up endangering not only their own lives but also the lives of those around them (Baker et al., 2007).
Maintenance work is a crucial aspect for any industry that involves the use of vehicles and other heavy machinery like the oilrigs. Most of the accidents in the oil and gas industry happen due to the failed machinery. The latter includes cranes that break down and fall or drop items on the employees, trucks that lose their breaks and plunge into buildings, other trucks, or people at the work site, refinery equipment that may fail to work thus causing an accumulation or leakage of explosive gases or substances among many other possibilities in this industry. In most cases, it may be noted that the causes of these failures could be detected if the equipment is checked frequently and given some maintenance service. The ideal situation for the global health and safety concept is that all companies must schedule regular maintenance services for the machinery, especially if they use them frequently. This does not, however, imply that equipment that is not utilized regularly does not need maintenance. It actually needs to be serviced as well if it is to remain usable in the company.
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Explosions are especially common in the oil and gas industry with most of them being attributed to negligence, which saw the employees leaving an oil rig unsupervised for a long period (European Commission, 2008). The argument in these cases is often that the heat can be detected, and possible solutions are considered before the explosion occurs, although this may not always be the case. In the preventable cases, however, it can be assumed that, if the company maintains a full time surveillance to monitor their wells and plants, then they would be able to prevent most of the explosions in this industry. The global expectation on this note is that oil and gas companies should have the staff or at least the equipment to monitor their risk factors and ensure that there is ample warning, and a list of workable solutions for every risk that has been identified, especially with respect to the explosions. One of the basic industrial safety regulations deals with the prevention and response to explosions. As such, the international standards of occupational health and safety require all employees within the oil and gas industry to be able to understand and respond promptly to an explosion threat or the explosion itself (European Commission, 2008). This is mainly because there have been a number of explosions that were considered unpreventable in the past, and thus, there is a need to prepare all those working in that environment on how they should act in case of emergency.
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Employees’ motivation and communication are factors that cannot, under any circumstances, be ignored in this industry with respect to health and safety (Esswein & Hill, 2013). Employees’ motivation is simply about keeping them interested in what they do, boosting their morale, and allowing them to concentrate on their work. Communication, on the other hand, is mostly about passing on adequate information as needed within the organization so as to avoid mistakes of misinformation and misguided assumptions, which could lead to serious incidents and accidents at the work site. Motivated employees are also likely to always focus on their work thus avoiding mistakes that could endanger their lives and the lives of their colleagues.
From a global perspective, industrial organizations need to be able to cater for the needs of their employees in a bid to enable them to focus on their roles and responsibilities at work (Esswein & Hill, 2013). Employees’ motivation includes providing growth opportunities for individuals as well as their career goals, offering reasonable pay packages with rewards and benefits, valuing the employee’s input, and addressing their concerns within the workplace, while also endeavoring to make the work site friendly and conducive for them. Adhering to all these standards ensures that the employees can focus and avoid being absent-minded while at work. They will not only appreciate their jobs but also give their best performance as they feel relaxed and valued. Organizations in which the employees are unhappy are likely to register more preventable accidents induced by absent-mindedness and lack of interest at work as well as distractions caused by life pressures like lacking medical insurance and being unable to afford one’s bills at home.
The global perspective on health and safety within the oil and gas industry is not limited to the operational component of the industry but rather covers most of the human resources, component of training, motivating, and even communicating with the employees (Esswein & Hill, 2013). This means that, in order to ensure health and safety within this industry, companies need to integrate all the activities and approaches that are aimed at improving the working experiences of their employees in general. Health and safety is, in this context, not just about keeping the dangerous equipment in restricted areas but also keeping the employee in a condition of optimal concentration, where they have no excuse to get distracted. This will include allowing for adequate rest as well as eliminating the known stress factors like poor pay, lack of benefits, and insufficient growth opportunities among other things.
Occupational Health and Safety in the UAE’s Oil and Gas Industry
The UAE as a nation lends some unique cultural context to the health and safety, making it rather insufficient from a global perspective. Until recently, the majority of employees in the oil and gas industry were unskilled laborers with informal training and thus no ability to read through a safety manual and comprehend its contents (Esswein & Hill, 2013). Also, the widespread use of Arabic in place of English means that any internationally recognized safety manuals would have to be translated, with the risk of losing some important information during translation. It can be assumed, however, that the UAE is very motivated to reach international standards with respect to occupational health and safety (Abu Dhabi Oil Company Ltd, n.d). This is why the employees at the oil and gas industry in the UAE have to undergo the training process before they are certified to work within the industry. They have to be provided with all the information that is considered vital for their health and safety at the work sites.
Another main factor that can be observed from the readings, in this case, is that the UAE government has ensured that employers are fully responsible for the safety of their employees within the work environment (Perks, 2012). This minimizes the urge to cut costs by skipping some of the set regulations for safety and health in the industry. therefore, employers are now willing to incur the training costs that will ensure that they are not to blame in the event when an employee has an accident or is unable to respond promptly to an emergency situation within the industry. The government has set not only clear regulations to help the companies navigate this subject safely, but also hefty fines for violators that may endanger the lives of their employees (Manuele, 2013). The context here is that the government is trying not only to protect the workers but also the organization in question from liability lawsuits and international criticism, especially seeing that the oil and gas industry is an international one with a lot of weight being placed on the human rights position of the employer.
It can be noted that, despite the expectation that the UAE would be behind most of the international standards entailing the seemingly persistent negativity towards westernization and thus modernization, this country has been able to upgrade its rules and regulations to ensure that the businesses can compete on a global scale. Therefore, one can accurately conclude that the UAE has come a long way to matching their regulations with those of the international community, with prevention and response taking center stage in the training programs for new and existing employees alike.