Petroleum engineering literature contains limited reviews or documentations of oilfield accidents. We considered a number of cases which in the past have resulted in human fatalities, injuries and environmental disasters. Our study included a number of oilfield accidents ranging from drilling operation to pipeline transportation. Publicly available analysis of these case studies indicates accidental causes ranging from mechanical malfunctioning, electric shocks, falling objects, human errors and management flaws. For the studies included in our analysis, however, we observe that unless we resort to innovating and install advanced techniques for early failure prediction and monitoring for protecting workers, other similar events can re-happen with unfortunate impact on safety of human and the environment. As such, steps must be taken to not just enacting system integrity monitoring but also developing tools for empowering and enhancing human senses or system sensors for predicting failures and thus saving lives. This becomes particularly more critical in work processes where either overwhelming volume of incoming signals or, on the opposite, lack of critical sensor data become matters of concerns. Our review also show that critical situations develop when human response time is out of sync with unexpected systems responses and, more importantly, when human attitude about risk and safety, contributes to the disasters.

Lessons learned show that, while it is important to equip oilfield workers with the appropriate attire, safety tools and decision making systems, it is more important to support workers with remote monitoring and early warning systems. This will help for real time sensing and failure prediction of systems integrity for safeguarding oilfield workers when they deal with complex systems and/or when they may need to make decisions under duress. These remote monitoring systems must be able to rapidly process information from multitudes of sensors and sensor nets and provide real time feedback to the workers for protecting them against their shortcomings in their sensing limitations and for potential human related attitudes that can cause accidents.

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