News / Edmonton

University of Alberta professor, students redesign oilfield work wear

Researchers at the University of Alberta have redesigned traditional oilfield work wear to make it safer and better looking.

Assistant professor Megan Strickfaden and her research team were contacted by oil field professionals to design workwear that would better protect against hot water and steam injuries, which were on the rise.

“Steam can be up to 335 C with very, very high pressure, and hot water has less pressure but can get up to 90 C. As you can imagine, when an injury occurs it’s a major injury – it can be first, second or third-degree burns — but it can also be fatal,” Strickfaden explained.

The new garments are two pieces, designed with washable, semi-permeable material that will be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The high-waisted pants are more comfortable and can be taken off without removing steel-toe boots, while the jacket has a number of pockets and better protects the wrists, hands and neck.

“They’re more tailored, which is going to improve mobility. There’s ease in taking garments on and off. The tasks only take 10 to 15 minutes, but it only takes a couple minutes for someone to be injured or (killed). There also had to be a durable wear and ease of laundering” she said, adding that the suits were manufactured in Edmonton.

Researchers interviewed workers, observed them in the field and took over 5,000 photos in order to get the prototype garments just right, Strickfaden said.

The garments were then tested by workers at Devon Canada Corporation to see how they would stand up under pressure in the field.

“The new suits helped the workers feel much more confident and comfortable when having to work with and around steam,” said Steve Beggs, a Devon health and safety professional in Jackfish District, in an email to Metro.

“The guys working out on the well pads especially work with steam quite often because the well pad is where the injection of steam into the well formation takes place. The employees noticed that the steam didn’t penetrate their garment the way it would when they were just wearing normal fire-resistant coveralls.”

Strickfaden and her team will be conducting another trial in the summer to see how the suits fare against the warmer climate.

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