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A lucrative proposition awaits

Gas industry offers high-paying jobs to those who qualify

January 28, 2012
By LINDA HARRIS - Business editor ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - For those who have the discipline to adhere to the oil and gas industry's strict performance standards, working on a well site can be a lucrative proposition.

With salaries that, conservatively, exceed $60,000 a year, it's the kind of job everybody wants - but not everybody qualifies for.

Strict rules involving drug and alcohol use and abuse deter many would-be job seekers. Those who remain in the applicant pool must be prepared for a gruelling work schedule working 12-hour shifts daily for two- to three-weeks at a stretch, rarely-if ever-leaving the job site. Job attendance and promptness are key requirements.

Article Photos

Eastern Gateway Community College workforce development launched its first Shale gas-related training Jan. 19 at the Pugliese Center on the Jefferson County Campus. The PEC Premier Basic Orientation provided students with SafeLand and SafeGulf training that leads to safety certifications that meet industry safety standards allowing the certified party access to a drilling site. Eastern Gateway’s workforce development department is the only authorized PEC/Premier Safety Management provider of this training in the state of Ohio. First class participants, from left, are Virgis Vinson, Jeff Givens, Duane Thomas, Frank Zurek, Kevin Vahalik and Nicholas Smith. Information about other gas-related training is available by calling Eastern Gateway. (Contributed)

"You have to be focused at all times," said Michael Lorms, an instructor with Eastern Gateway Community College's shale training program at the Jefferson County campus. "You have to leave emotion at the door. Your behavior has the potential to be harmful to yourself and others, so whatever happened outside the well pad you have to leave at the front gate. That has to be built into your mindset. You're working 12-hour days, seven days a week for two weeks straight with no phone calls, no smoke breaks."

Lorms offers PEC Premier Basic Orientation classes at the college's Jefferson County campus that provides students with basic SafeLand and SafeGulf training leading to safety certifications that meet industry safety standards allowing the certified party access to a drilling site.

"The training is vital," Lorms said. "I can't speak for all of the company men or the big firms, but many of them require anyone working for them ... their contractors and subcontractors, any individual coming on site, to have the training.

"From the individual hauling trash away or someone hauling water to the site, anyone who basically comes on the well pad, it's a good idea for them to have this training."

SafeLand USA certification is an environmental health and safety standard specifically designed for the U.S. onshore energy and petroleum industry. The training covers things like incident reporting and investigation; accident prevention signs and tags; hand safety; material handling; behavioral safety; first aid/CPR considerations; confined space; drug and alcohol/substance abuse; hazard communication; lockout/tagout; electrical safety; intervention/stop work authority; fire prevention and portable extinguishers; walking working surfaces; job safety analysis/pre-job planning; personal protective equipment, respiratory; prevention of workplace violence; working at heights; permit to work; driver safety/transportation safety; environmental; excavation/trenching and shoring; industrial hygiene/occupational health; and site specific hazards and emergency evacuation.

Lorms said successfully completing the class, which follows the PEC curriculum, certifies a student has attained basic awareness levels.

While it's designed to be a 10-hour course, Lorms said oil rigs are new to the area "so there's going to be a learning curve." Students will be learning "new vernacular, terms that aren't used anywhere else, safety practices that aren't used anywhere else," he said.

"There's a lot of information and discussion. I'm not going to stop the discussion to move on to the next topic because I understand the importance of the discussion. If it needs to go longer, I'm willing to accommodate the needs of the students."

Lorms said it's critical that students assimilate as much information as they can "because all aspects have the potential to harm them."

"If an incident occurred, everybody has a role," he said. "That role may be as simple as to just get out of the way, but if you don't know that you could potentially put yourself or someone else at harm. Every day has the potential to bring harm in the oil and gas industry, and good reaction time has the potential to save someone's life."

Lorms said safety "is drilled in, it's built into every facet" of working on a well site.

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