Safety Training on a Budget

Know where to find affordable—and free—resources for your safety program.

By Jennifer Strawn

Making sure your employees are safe on the jobsite should be any business owner’s No. 1 goal.

“Safety is an important part of the drilling industry,” says Art Becker, MGWC, CPG, NGWAF, president of Drilling and Safety Consultants LLC in Manahawkin, New Jersey. “I think it’s very important that companies have a culture of safety.”

That doesn’t mean your safety program needs to be complicated or expensive, though. As a consultant, Becker has provided safety programs and helped countless companies with safety issues, but going the consultant route may not be necessary for everyone.

“A lot of the times I’m called in to help with safety once the horse is already out of the barn,” he says. “Somebody got themselves in a jam, and now they want to figure out how to do better going forward.”

Unless you’ve had a safety problem, you probably don’t need to do something like that or spend a lot of cash outsourcing your safety program to a specialized company.

“Safety can be simple,” Becker admits. “Your safety program doesn’t need to be complex. There are a number of resources today available at your fingertips that are effectively free.”

Here’s how to find affordable—or free—resources to help you maintain a culture of safety.

What’s required?

When it comes to safety, there’s not a list of training that groundwater contracting companies must complete because the training depends on the work your company does. For example, you only need confined space training if you work in confined spaces.

“Even then, it might only be required for the particular crew doing the confined space work,” says Jim Wright, principal and director of safety and health at Terracon Consultants Inc. in Olathe, Kansas. “It’s hard to put together a list of what’s required because it depends so much on the work you do.”

Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety training may include:

  • Lockout/tagout
  • Respiratory protection
  • Confined space
  • Hazard communication
  • Excavation (trench shoring)
  • Work at heights (fall protection)
  • Hearing conservation
  • Cranes
  • Electrical safety (NFPA 70E)
  • Powered industrial trucks (forklift)
  • Hazardous waste site work
  • Bloodborne pathogens (first aid and CPR)
  • Construction training (10-hour or 30-hour, optional).

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation may also require safety training including hours of service logs; vehicle maintenance including pre- and post-trip inspections, routine maintenance, and annual inspections; hazardous material transport; load securement; and driver fitness.

“Your exposure to a training compliance violation is probably highest with the DOT because of their very active roadside inspection and office program audit process,” Wright says. “After the DOT, OSHA would probably be the next largest exposure.”

Depending on your company’s business, you may also need training related to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations including spill prevention control and countermeasures, construction site environmental control (runoff, mud on streets), and the Clean Water Act.

If you work on mining sites, you’ll also need to have training required by the Mining Safety and Health Administration.

Who can conduct the training?

Some training needs to be completed by a certified instructor. This includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training from the American Red Cross as well as courses from the National Safety Council and MSHA.

For OSHA training, only crane operator courses must be taught by a certified instructor. For OSHA’s 10-hour and 30-hour training, an approved instructor must conduct the training.

Otherwise, the trainer is required to be a “competent person.” This is defined as:

One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them [29 CFR 1926.32(f)].

Competency is based on experience, education, and training.

“It’s up to the company to define who that competent person is,” Wright says. “You need to look at what you’re required to teach and determine who is competent to teach that class. You’re accepting a little bit of liability, but you don’t need to have these high-priced safety consultants come in and teach all of your classes.”

For example, if you need to do forklift training and you have an employee who has driven a forklift for 15 years and went to forklift driving school, you can deem that person competent to teach your forklift training classes.

Where to find free and affordable training

The National Ground Water Association has several affordable resources to help your company maintain a safety training program. In fact, its Model Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Manual ($65 for NGWA members) provides a complete safety program and is designed to promote safe practices and reduce worker injuries.

It covers many OSHA topics including inspections and auditing, accident reporting, electrical safety, employee training, fire prevention, fall prevention, hazard communication, hearing conservation, and respiratory protection.

The Employee Safety Manual, Second Edition is also available in NGWA’s bookstore, costs $10 for NGWA members, and covers a variety of safety topics including jobsite safety, confined spaces, electrical safety, safe use of hand tools, and more. Its small size makes it easy to toss in company vehicles for quick reference at jobsites.

Dahlman Pump and Well Drilling Inc. in Burlington, Washington, uses NGWA’s Safety Meetings for the Groundwater Industry as a part of its safety training program. This set of 52 topics is designed so companies can conduct weekly safety meetings. Each sheet contains talking points and areas to write down related topics and recommendations offered by employees.

“We have what we call weekly safety minutes,” says Scott Fowler, CWD/PI, president of Dahlman Pump and Well Drilling and past president of NGWA. “Every Thursday the guys come in, have some donuts, read that week’s topic, and sign off on it. In my opinion, every member of NGWA should be buying that packet and having their guys sign off on it weekly.”

Equipment vendors and manufacturers are another good source for safety training. They take in rig manufacturers, chemical vendors, fire extinguisher suppliers, and wire rope vendors.

“Who is better to provide training than the company who built the equipment?” Wright asks. “I used to have it written into our requirements that if we bought a new drill rig, we wanted the vendor to give us a one-day training class on safety and maintenance.”

When the fire extinguishers are inspected and recharged each year, Wright has the supplier teach employees how to use a fire extinguisher.

“You’re getting them taken apart and inspected anyway, so you might as well shoot them off,” he says. “We’d light a pan of diesel fuel on fire under the direction of a trainer and with the approval of the local fire department, then use the fire extinguisher to put it out. It doesn’t cost you any money for the extinguisher at that point and your employees get a hands-on training.”

Many of the major insurers offer loss control services to small businesses. This can help you identify hazards in your workplace and help you establish best practices for maintaining a safe work environment. They may even have safety training materials available for your employees on a variety of topics.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and OSHA also provide safety tools and resources. The FMCSA website has commercial vehicle driver safety tips and more. OSHA’s eTools offers a collection of documents supporting job hazard analysis and training. Videos that support the training are also available.

The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offer information on several occupational health topics from heat stress to preventing the flu. You can browse workplace and health safety topics. NIOSH’s Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards is a useful online resource for general industrial hygiene information on hundreds of chemicals/classes.

The Emergency Response Guidebook from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is a must for commercial drivers or companies that store hazardous materials, according to Wright.

Mobile apps can also put safety information at your fingertips. NIOSH’s Heat Safety Tool calculates the heat index and can provide reminders to drink fluids and schedule work breaks. My Lightning Tracker & Alerts notifies users of nearby lightning strikes and severe weather. The iAuditor app allows you to create, track, and file your own rig inspection forms or you can choose to download from thousands of form templates created by others.

You can also test your employees’ knowledge of electrical safety, fall protection, safe lifting, and more in a fun way. The games are all downloadable for free via mobile devices and educate employees as they play.

Finally, finding cost-effective training resources can also be as easy as an Internet search.

“There are hundreds of free resources out there,” says Wright, who received the 2012 NGWA Safety Advocate Award and chaired and served on the NGWA Safety Subcommittee multiple times.

“I’ll often do a search for drilling safety or electrical safety—whatever training I’m looking for. Of course, you need to vet them to make sure they’re competent, but I get tons of good training and information off the Internet.”

Safety Products in the NGWA Bookstore
  Find the NGWA safety products mentioned in this article and more online. Included is the Employee Safety Manual, Second Edition, which was just updated in 2018 and is a size convenient for storing in vehicles. NGWA members receive a discount upon purchase.

Keeping track of safety training

Make sure to keep good records as you and coworkers complete safety training. Have a sign-in sheet, and if possible, a quiz that tests the knowledge of the people in the training.

“When people hear ‘safety program,’ I think people get caught up in a format,” says Becker, past president of NGWA.

“Certainly, it has to follow some format—you want to cover all the safety aspects—but the bottom line is that you should try to keep it straightforward and simple and make sure it’s communicated to your personnel.”

DACUM Codes
To help meet your professional needs, this article covers skills and competencies found in DACUM charts for drillers, pump installers, and geothermal contractors. DO refers to the drilling chart and GO represents the geothermal chart. The letter and number immediately following is the skill on the chart covered by the article. This article covers: DOD-8; DOK-4, 8, 9; DOL-1, 2, 3, 4, 10; PIB-9; PIG-1, 2, 3; GOD-10; GOI-4, 8, 9; GOJ-1, 2, 3, 4, 10. More information on DACUM and the charts are available here.

Jennifer Strawn was the associate editor of Water Well Journal from 2004 to 2007. She is currently in the internal communications department at Nationwide in Columbus, Ohio. She can be reached at strawnj2@gmail.com.