Ensuring site safety

17 June 2022

Heavy lift engineers Mustafa Al Abdulmohsin and Hussain Al Nassir, part of oil and gas company Saudi Aramco’s Heavy Lift Engineering Group, a division of its Transportation and Equipment Services Department, explain how the company is taking heavy equipment safety to new levels.

It is a clear that crane lifting can be a risky activity and requires a lot of precautions in order to be performed safely. With tens of tonnes, if not hundreds of tonnes, being lifted by operators on a daily basis specific policies and procedures have been established by companies, national authorities, and international standards to control such potentially hazardous operations.

For Saudi Aramco, the largest oil and gas company producer in the world, daily lifting operations conducted within its facilities need a high-level safety system. This system consists mainly of three pillars: applying equipment inspection; implementing an operator and rigger competency programme for training and certification; and enforcing detailed operation procedure, policies, and guidelines.

Such a seemingly comprehensive system, though, still may not be enough to fully ensure the complete compliance of certain requirements. As such, Saudi Aramco has formed its own Heavy Equipment Safety Committee (HESC), a referenced entity within Saudi Aramco for any related lifting practices, which is designed to elevate the company’s safety standards to the next level.

The HESC achieves this in a number of ways. First, it conducts frequent quality assessment site visits in the form of spot checks to ensure all safety requirements are being fulfilled.

The HESC also provides technical advice to senior management relating to any crane or lifting issues. It also provides technical support and guidance – especially when new technologies are deployed within the company.

Site visits within Saudi Aramco facilities are primarily designed to enhance the field safety of lifting operations and they help connect field operators with experts and rule makers giving operators the chance to discuss any daily operation challenges and obstacles with company specialists. Such visits are also designed to help ensure that those on the ground are fully aware of the required regulations, policies and available best lifting practices.

Having external visitors check normal day-to-day lifting operations also increases the opportunity of spotting any unsafe practices which may otherwise have been taken for granted and become accepted practice. Such ignored practices might seem insignificant to operators – things such as slight corrosion or minor damage in rigging equipment – however, with time and excessive usage of such equipment (especially in the harsh environments Saudi Aramco operates in), catastrophic failure could otherwise happen.

Saudi Aramco’s HESC has conducted multiple site visits over the past few years covering all the company’s major operating facilities including drilling rigs and operating plants such as Abqaiq Plants, the Ras Tanura Refinery, and the Waist Gas Plant.

The HESC also inspects the company’s mega projects, which it also visits during the construction phase for compliance checks. For instance, the Committee’s visit to Jizan Refinery helped to resolve field issues relating specially to operator certification as well as ensuring the implementation of heavy equipment operation procedures and requirements. Other examples of such visits include the assessment of the Maritime Yard Development Project in Ras Al Khair, Saudi Arabia, known as the King Salman Global Maritime Industries Complex. This project is a shipyard that is under construction, with heavy loads being lifted every day. Upon completion of the project it will be the largest shipyard in the world.

Another visit was to the Tanajib Pier, part of Saudi Aramco’s Marine Department, which operates a number of vessels and jack-up barges to provide offshore support services to a wide range of Saudi Aramco offshore platforms, along with providing onshore support services to the berthing vessels.

Some of the safety assessment related activities that were conducted during the most recent HESC Committee visits involved: checking the overall condition of heavy equipment for damage or potential failures; ensuring all equipment has valid periodical inspection stickers along with load rating charts; checking the validity of crane operators’ certificates; ensuring the implementation of reliable housekeeping procedures for equipment and rigging hardware; ensuring that certified third-party inspection companies are doing their inspections as expected and have spotted all problems; as well as highlighting any recommendations for the overall site improvements

So although Saudi Aramco already has tight and efficient safety systems with regards to lifting activities, it says that conducting these frequent site assessment visits to all its different facilities contributes further to ensuring safety.

Not only do they improve safety procedures but they help ensure the compliance of employees with safety requirements, enhance the technical connection between department members by providing the opportunity to share expertise, and increase all round company safety awareness.

Marine Tanajib Pier is a busy site with loading/offload barges to support offshore operations
Spot checks help secure compliance
Lots of lifting activities are carried out during oil plant shutdowns
Saudi Aramco’s HESC visits all its facilities and mega-projects, too. Here the HESC is at the company’s Fadhili Gas Plant Project