This panel discussed worker health and safety. These are important issues being addressed by many governmental agencies, industry associations and businesses. With respect to industry workers, OSHA has been focusing quite a bit on respiratory protection from silica exposure. Job training for environmental and occupational safety is crucial. The panel found that worker protection should also apply to transportation safety.
The industry is committed to improving community participation and awareness. Many businesses are permitting site tours as part of this process. Emergency response systems are also being enhanced, such as by having annual emergency response drills that include community and local government personnel.
Safety programs start by looking at safety equipment, implementing management systems and then by attempting to change human behavior. We need to look at near losses or injury in the field and then respond by eliminating those risks in the future. This requires a daily process of assessment. Companies now want employees to affirmatively take action when a potential problem is noted. This behavior should become instinctive.
With respect to safety solutions, an important step is being able to verify that the correction has had a positive affect. Companies should set minimum expectations for worker training and confirm competence. Paying attention to contractors on site is also necessary. Contractors need to understand the company safety programs that are in place. Communication and constant reinforcement is crucial in order for safety programs to be successful.
Spot locators for people and remote monitors for fracking sites are also ways to improve safety. For example, some remote monitors can observe changes in weather and other conditions that might pose a risk to employees.
Another aspect of fracking is the compression of gas that allows for it to be transported. Many of the same safety strategies apply to this process. There is a genuine desire for businesses within the industry to share safety ideas and to implement a culture of safety. Safety awareness is a process that must start at the top. Again, a key issue is to figure out how an accident happens and find a solution. The more upper management is involved, the better the results. Adequate money and resources must be devoted to safety. In some companies, improved injury rates are rewarded with higher compensation for employees and supervisors. Once again, the key is to develop a culture of safety.
The same analysis should apply to business partners and even customers. If business partners are sending the wrong message with regard to safety, perhaps it's time to end that relationship.
There has been a movement to go beyond individual company safety programs and create recognized best practices for the industry. The panelists think this is a good idea. Sharing safety concepts should improve conditions for everyone.