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Stiff arms on tongs should have a secondary restraint, like a whip-check. It should be as short as possible. Recently, a 22-year-old rig hand in North Dakota was killed when the stiff arm on a set of casing tongs failed, and the tongs spun around, striking him in the chest. Had there been a secondary restraint in place, he would be alive right now.

The restraint must be as short as possible, so that if the stiff arm does fail, it stops the tongs before they can spin far enough to impact a floor hand.

It is the responsibility of the tool pusher and the driller to inspect the tongs and stiff arm at every shift change, and the responsibility of the floor hands to inspect them from time to time during the shift.

This incident occurred on Pioneer Drilling rig number 74.

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This must be on a service rig who have a permanent set of tongs? It is always a good idea for hands to check their equipment at every shift change. As well as during the job. Thanks for the share guys!

Another lessons learned the hard way. Since it says "drilling rig", a stiff arm tells me they were using ST80's or iron rough neck with hydraulic spinning wrench. The stiff arm replaces the snub line. BUT, in this case, you would use a properly fitted cable as you would a whip check, with the proper working load as lifting and hoisting. We have had many near misses over time from this same event.


Lets hope and pray more people join drilling ahead. There is much a person can learn from this group for free.

Our mission as rig hands is, we drill the well just right, we go to work together and we go home together.


Prayers for the 22-year-old. He had not started living yet.


Thank you group manager for this great website.


Kind Regards,




If I could have one goal in my career it would be to increase awareness around the oilfield to prevent tragic instances such as this from happening, it is a true shame.

I whole heartedly agree..

And by the way... I appreciate what you just posted...

I can tell you this..I work with alot of really good hands... and we've never had this issue... however... most or all of the rigs I work on.. if I were to ask for this safety issue... I would be laughed at.. and you have me wondering... because I know that I have a wife and kids... and I always look at the man next to me and think he probably has a wife and kids... I always try to remember that when I'm running casing... but is this just an anomaly, a fluke accident... or is his something us casers should really look at... your opinions would be very greatly appreciated

Good reply Tim,

   If this was or wasn't casing tongs, I'll say this. I like your compassion for your crew. I'm glad you haven't had this exposure, tells me your not complacent. The part about laughed at; I face adversity of some kind everywhere I go. I am an HSE Tech. When I drilled or now that I'm in safety, I make a "call" I can live with. Sometimes that "call" gets me un-invited back to work and that's ok, I've struggled before. When I put my head on my pillow at night, I know I did my best. Everyone has a family. I'm not worth one red cent if I'm dead.  There is always a way to mitigate a hazard.


Good luck to you and your crew

I'm an HSE Director for a well servicing company. (Workover rigs)  Whether it was an "anomaly" or not, it is a tragedy. Here in the Bakken shale, there are too many of these freak accidents. I do my best to train my hands to ask "what if".  You can't count the accidents that didn't happen.

Being able to perform the job safely is a huge part of what separates the professionals from the amateurs.

I brought this point up last night at our weekly stand down meeting. Everyone was preaching statistics & other information, that I could tell the crews were just tuning out. After everyone was done I had my part & looked these guys straight in the eyes & said if or when you get hurt out here your life goes to crap. You are injured or worse (which I didn't mention) you can't work, all that money you are making is gone. You struggle to survive until you can't afford to live. Marital problems compound the problem. Just really broke down what one simple "mind off the task" for a second can do & I really feel like I got through to them. Bottom line, everyone has to have each others back's out there!

Jeffrey, in my un professional opinion, there is no such thing as a freak accident.

professionals VS: amateurs.


Please give this some thought; safety is an art! It is the ability to recognize danger and mitigate it. It starts with attitude. Through training and using the *BUDDY SYSTEM*, we can make deadlines, incident free!

It takes a team effort...

Good luck to you and our friends on the Bakken Shale.

I absolutely agree. However, I stand by my comment about being a professional. I also agree, and teach in all my training, that we are our brother's keeper. Watching the other guy's back is part of our job.

While it's true that every accident could have been prevented, hindsight is always 20/20. Sure, we can almost always figure out why something occurred after the fact, the problem is having the foresight to spot it before it does happen. We talk about unsafe conditions and unsafe behaviors, but what about unsafe attitudes?  I absolutely agree with you about attitudes. Something happens to a guy, and quite often people are ready to jump all over the "dumbass" with comments like "He should have known better" or "that's easy" - basically puffing up egos at another's misfortune. Well, it turns out, someone may have pointed out a hazard or unsafe behavior, but everyone else jumped on it to "prove" the guy wrong. That's the root cause of many accidents, if you ask me -an egocentric culture of turning every single issue on the rig into a p****** match. 


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