By Gary L. Hix, CWD/PI
Whenever home owners or visitors come out to the drill rig, we assume the responsibility for their protection, health, and safety.
On some job sites, there is a written job safety plan in effect covering this in great detail. There may even by a designated person to stop, intercept, and host visitors to the drilling project.
But for so many domestic water well contractors, there is probably no such person, or maybe no written plan for the drilling crew to follow when someone walks toward the drilling site.
When I’m at a drill site these days it’s typically as a consultant for the well owner or as a geologist logging cuttings for the well driller. Either way, I feel I have a sense of responsibility to monitor who comes to the drill site and how I can keep them safe while they are there.
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My many years of being around well drilling activities has taught me anything can happen at any time and we must always be on guard for potential accidents. Having witnessed drill rigs fall over, high pressure hoses burst, items fall down, and people getting hurt in the strangest of ways, I know there are potential dangers everywhere around well drilling activities. Guests and visitors may not even suspect what form of dangers lurk at the job site.
My perspective is that OSHA doesn’t look at a domestic water well contractor any different than a monitoring well driller when it comes to accidents occurring on the job site. Any accident is going to become the responsibility of the drill rig owner.
The standards for safety apply to everyone equally. Anyone on—or in close proximity—to the drill rig should be wearing a hard hat, safety glasses, and for most situations, ear plugs.
Visitors to environmental drill sites must be kept behind a clearly marked safety zone. Visitors to domestic well drilling sites must be kept a safe distance from drill rig and associated equipment.
Finally, if any the visitors include children, it can become a problem very quickly. There are many attractive nuisances around a drilling project and children can find them all. Be especially protective of them.
Invited guests to environmental or commercial well drilling projects (i.e. politicians, celebrities, reporters, students, etc.) may expect to participate and learn more than the casual visitor. They present a more challenging task keeping them safe while getting them close to the action. Oftentimes they want to be photographed with the well driller or in front of the drill rig. Photo opportunities and publicity events can disrupt the normal work flow and allow employees to let down their guard while performing their normal duties. Employees can become distracted by the visitors and be injured as well. Nothing could be worse than having an accident while dignitaries and reporters are present.
Safety takes no holidays or vacations. It must be practiced every day by everyone. Owners, visitors, or guests to the drill site require special attention to assure their safety and the safety of the workers.
Gary L. Hix, RG, CWD/PI, is a registered professional geologist in Arizona, a Certified Well Driller/Pump Installer by NGWA, and a Certified Professional Geologist by the American Institute of Professional Geologists. He is past president of the Arizona Water Well Association and a former licensed water well contractor in Arizona. He has authored many articles on subjects related to well drilling issues for NGWA’s Water Well Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.