Some oil and natural gas drillers on Friday slammed a draft state safety rule that would require those on drilling rig sites to wear flame-resistant clothing.
Operators and drilling contractors were quick to declare their allegiance to safe workplaces before the Wyoming Occupational Health and Safety Commission at its meeting in Casper.
But some said requiring flame-resistant clothing for all of those on a rig site doesn’t make sense because flash fires are rare, the clothing doesn’t provide much protection in messy rig conditions and federal safety rules leave decisions on such clothes to operators.
“This is the way it’s been forever,” said Drew Harding of drilling contractor Unit Drilling Corp.
“The idea is that employers are much better fit to identify the particular hazards of their workplace, their working environment, than anyone else is,” he said.
Several operators also complained that the heavy clothing puts employees at risk for dehydration in hot summers and mentioned the high cost of the clothing, particularly since a high turnover rate is common for rig crews.
But representatives from other companies, including the large firms of Encana Oil & Gas and Halliburton Corp, said they already require their employees to wear such clothing.
The clothing is expensive, agreed Halliburton District Manager Denny Gladwin. But his company provides several changes of the clothes and laundry services, and deals with dehydration concerns by discussing the issue with employees.
We “deal with that through training,” he said.
The flame-resistant clothing requirement, unlike the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s other recent drilling safety rule updates, has zigzagged its way through the rule-making process, catching heat from various operators as the rule language has changed.
Changes proposed to the rules at a December meeting were considered by the commission Friday, but the intensity of operator interest in the rules and the range of opinion spurred them to take another look.
The commission voted Friday afternoon to consider all the opinions presented at the meeting, tabulate them, and look at them at a later date to come up with the latest version of the rules.
“Hopefully we’ll all come up with something we can live with, that will improve safety, and is clear and concise,” said commission Chairman David Vaughan, a Lander rancher.