New workers are the most likely to be injured in the oil and gas industry. Moving the needle on that dial so that there are fewer injuries is among the hopes for a new safety orientation that seeks to standardize training for Bakken oilfield workers.
It’s called One Basin One Way, and while state officials gathered in Bismarck for a ribbon cutting for the North Dakota Petroleum Council initiative, the training program itself was already in full swing in Williston at TrainND.
Kenley Nebeker is the regional director of technical programs and training for Williston State College, and oversees both TrainND and career-technical programs for the college.
More than 100 students have already completed safety training through One Basin One Way at TrainND, Nebeker said. The training is now accepted by 11 of the Bakken’s major oil and gas companies. These include XTO, Whiting, ONEOK, Hess, Oasis, Hess, Equnior, Enerplus, Bruin, QEP, Crestwood and WPX Energy.
“We are well over 50 percent of the production with the 11 producers that have signed on,” he said. “So we can say we are now the preferred orientation.”
The program is continuing to grow, Nebeker added, with several large companies saying that they plan to sign onto the training program, which includes 55 topics.
TrainND plans an open house for the new program beginning at 10 a.m. July 11.
In addition to a speaker from the North Dakota Petroleum Council, the open house includes observation of a safety training class and a tour to show off other programs TrainND can offer, from cranes and CDL driving, to leadership training and more.
While the open house is really geared toward invited members of the oil and gas industry, interested members of the public may attend as well, to learn more about the new program.
Nebeker has looked at baseline numbers for workplace injuries filed with the the state’s worker compensation system, WSI. The trend that stands out the most to him is how many new workers are injured each year compared to more experienced personnel.
For first-year workers, there were 475 injuries in 2017 and 492 in 2018. And for workers with two to five years experience, there were 488 injuries in 2017, and 531 in 2018.
For personnel with 11 to 15 years of experience, injuries were around 100 for 2016 and 2017.
These figures don’t count the uncoded claims, where the years of experience box, which is voluntary, wasn’t filled in. Most of those are believed to be first-year employees, Nebeker said. If so, that would make first-year injuries more like 800.
“People lose a finger, and then they learn to be safer,” he said.
But that’s obviously not how anyone wants the safety message to come home.
“I do think (North Dakota injury statistics) have been improving,” Nebeker said. “And we expect that trend to continue as a result of this program, and maybe even to accelerate.”
The initial idea for the One Basin One Way program came about because so many workers were sitting through multiple presentations on safety — as many as eight redundant sessions annually. It was consuming millions of man hours for material that employees were likely to tune out, since they’d heard something like it once already.
Kari Cutting, with NDPC, said that when they learned that a utility program started a similar program in 1996 and that it reduced workplace injuries, that clinched the decision to move ahead with One Basin One Way.
“We weren’t necessarily looking for that originally in our discussion, but when that came through, that this could lead to better safety statistics, it was just a no-brainer to try and standardize,” she said.
Safety improvements might be down the line, but the One Basin One Way program has already opened doors to new conversations with oil and gas companies, and led to other opportunities, such as scholarships to WSC career-technical programs.
“A lot of the newer companies to the area don’t realize what TrainND and WSC has to offer, and what two great institutions they have at their beck and call if they want them,” he said. “One Basin One Way has helped make it clear what else is available to them.”