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The Offshore Diaries (Entry 7)

The risks of working at sea lurk at every corner like a predator waiting to prey on your carelessness and take you to the great beyond. Risk is a huge shareholder in the business of offshore drilling, and its powers are curtailed by always allowing common sense and intense safety, most especially, have a greater say in whatever situation that arises. There are fewer environments with the potential for accidents than here. It is easy to forget the abounding dangers as is the case when a task becomes second nature to you due to repetition. This is prevented by the humongous amount of safety related paperwork and checks needed to carry out a task that they know you can perform in your sleep. Or by a gentle reminder like the “LOOK UP AND LIVE” sign posted at the major entrance of the rig floor, the focal point for all the drilling activities.

That sign is as literal as can be. On the rig floor abounds several hanging pipes, machinery etc. held up by metal ropes or slings which have been tested to withstand whatever load is put on them. But you know these village people and how they work. So no need to take chances; look up, look left, look right and look back – you’ll not turn to salt.

I remember how ridiculous I always thought it was to wear safety helmets until the day I watched a video of a not-so-large metal bolt-falling from a serious distance to the head of a guy who had, at that same instant, taken off his helmet to scratch his head. Small bolt-falling under gravity from a distance on a head and – boom! – the baba was gone too soon. The channels through which accidents can occur here can sometimes be inventive, which is why whenever one occurs and an investigation is launched, it is chalked up to three root causes: Human error, failure of machinery or because some things cannot just be fathomed, that is, an act of God.

The fear of a well blowout offshore is the beginning of wisdom. No wonder there are several checks, tests and sometimes, to an untrained eye, excess emphasis on safety while drilling is going on. Because Charley, you just don’t want a blowout offshore or even on land drilling. What is a blowout? Those of you who have stopped fearing God and retrieved your lives from Jesus severally are usually excited whenever you see the word ‘Blow’, whether it is in front of ‘Out’, ‘In’ or ‘Job’. But I assure you, this one is different and you won’t enjoy it if it happens to you.

Imagine shaking a can of coke and then opening it. Gas escapes, isn’t it? Spilling, bursting forth and rushing to its freedom from the compressed space of the can. In as simple as can be, this is what a blowout is. Crude oil is obtained from deep within the wombs of Mother Earth. To get to the layer where the crude oil is, you sometimes have to drill to almost 12, 000 feet and stick a pipe connected from the ship all the way in. To put that in perspective, this is about 14 times the height of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper. Now imagine you’re the crude oil and natural gas under that amount of pressure, with almost 8000 feet of earth on top of your head, then like a coke can, someone pokes a straw into you, turning on a light at the end of the tunnel and giving you a chance to escape uncontrolled.

Just like the gas in the coke after being under that much pressure, you, the natural gas, will be no different. You’ll erupt. Imagine how much your coke rushes out after upsetting it just a little; then compare that with the natural gas in the earth’s crust.

If you have ever heard of the Deepwater Horizon, a real life incident with a movie adaptation that was released last year… A blowout is what happened there. (I encourage you to watch the film if you can. It shows a lot of what goes on out here). Gas and crude oil somehow escaped all the safety mechanisms put in place and blew out with great pressure, and on finding an igniting source (of which there are many), caused the rig to explode, killing eleven people and consequently causing one of the worst environmental spill cases in the history of the world. It is recorded that the oil well flowed unrestrained into the water with crude oil for almost 83 days, killing aquatic life in their numbers.

If no be something waiting to fall on your head from a height, na you go fall from height. If it is not a blowout or exposure to sudden pressure, it is exposure to high voltage – an incident that a guy on the rig once encountered. The oga was going to work on a 3000 volts circuit, and at the last minute, the Spirit of God asked him to just check and confirm if there was any voltage in it, even though the person he was working with claimed to have isolated voltage going to that system. Baba checked with a high voltage meter and lo and behold, the 3000 volts was just there waiting patiently to ferry him to his father’s house where there are many mansions. The one in the house that’ll shock you and you’ll see the face of that your wicked ex saying “Ntoor” is just about 220 volts. Imagine then what 3000 can do to a son of man.

Working out here abhors carelessness and needs a constant questioning of self on the safety of whatever task you’re doing, even if it’s for the 3000th time, and a serious awareness of your surrounding at every point in time, not forgetting proper training and/or mentoring to ensure you’re equipped to carry out whatever task, no matter how unimportant it may seem in the greater scheme of things.

This entry may read like a horror story; but even this doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the risks out here. Maybe on another entry, I may continue. But it is important to note that a lot of emphasis is put on safety out here. Many tools, like the ability to stop a job if at any point you feel safety has been compromised, even if it is a superior carrying out the task, is constantly reiterated at every opportunity, as well as proper protective wears which they say is a last resort protection. Because if you think of it logically, if you do your checks very well, then the possibility of a bolt or machinery falling from a height and needing your helmet to protect you should be nonexistent. But sometimes, bro, it’s just an act of God.

Last-last, we go dey alright. Na kuku God dey save person.

My name is Uncle Stephen. This is my Diary.

About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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  1. Wow, please be safe out there. The risks are way too much, sound like a final destination movie plot.

  2. I told y’all. Adrenaline junkie.

    Please, be safe.

  3. Wow! Seeing rig life in a whole new light. Now I know why they don’t allow beer out there. Stay safe unku

  4. Offshore looks and plenty sounds like the ‘Lalaland of freak-type accidents’! Like the place is got a dark ‘taste’ for the bizarre and in which case any accident…the ‘unusual’ kind; is bound to be deemed an ‘act of God’! That’s some real creepy stuff! I now understand fully well why folks who work on there are given a golden parachute by way of getting compensated handsomely! LOL

    Big ups to y’all as y’all keep and remain super safe!? ? Nuff respect! ??

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