Spotlight on Safety

By The Bakken magazine staff | May 23, 2013

Leszek Jaszczak and his team at Fairlight Medical Center in Williston, N.D., perform the type of work that most in the region will never see. As safety testing and medical service providers for hundreds of oilfield drivers, the team doesn’t want it any other way. “For every guy that had a problem that we sent to get appropriate care after initial tests,” says Jaszczak, “it is another potential accident that you don’t read about.”     After starting a radiology clinic in 2002 with a staff of three, the medical center has grown tremendously, says Lauren Furlong, corporate health coordinator for the center. The clinic has added several employees and several services, ranging from occupational health to agility testing and Department of Transportation physical examinations. “Williston is a quickly growing environment and community, either you grow or you quickly become irrelevant, you either keep up with the competition or you don’t,” says Jaszczak, a board certified radiologist.

To remain relevant, the Fairlight team has had to battle the ongoing challenge of staffing, and according to Furlong, work with a sense of compassion. “That is a big key when you are working with these guys who pick up and leave home with no place to live and they’ve been driving all night,” she says. “They don’t necessarily pass their tests on their first try.” Rachel Whittier, R.N., says heavy usage of energy drinks is part of the problem for failed first tests.

Whittier and her team of nurses are working at 120 percent, she says, and in some cases, travel to drilling sites to perform yearly testing procedures for crews who are unable to make time for an in-clinic visit. To increase service efficiencies, Jaszczak hopes to add new technology that will replace free weights and extension ladders used to perform basic agility and skills tests each potential oilfield employee must undergo before being hired.

Job-travel, patience with multiple-test recipients or new technology implementation aren't the only aspects the team has had to deal with on a daily basis. The oil world can be small, Furlong says, and because of that, many in the industry change jobs frequently. The turnover and constant change makes it difficult for the clinic to maintain successful working relationships with other companies, but the team always finds a way. “There have been a lot of good times and a lot of hard times,” Jaszczak says, “but it has been a good ride.”

Paul Wolf, founder of Wolf Technologies LLC, knows all about the proverbial ride in the Bakken and why the issue of safety will always be important. In 2009, Wolf was recognized by Inc. Magazine as a leading entrepreneur for his trailer light safety check system. The system allows trailer operators, including commercial and over-the-road users, to verify the status of all trailer lights by plugging into a device he originally made out of Radio Shack parts and a plastic box. The system performs a diagnostic check to verify all turn signals work and open or short circuited wires don’t exist. The system saves on labor costs related to time-consuming testing, reduces highway inspections related to faulty lights and provides a level of safety in bumpy and muddy working conditions. “The device is extremely important for the oil industry for that very reason. They are driving on bumpy gravel roads and muddy roads. Those are all things that cause an increase in trailer light failures due to wire chaffing or bouncing inside the frames,” he says.

Today, the system is used by rental equipment companies across the country, he says, and more operators including contractors hauling equipment and over-the-road fleets in the Bakken are purchasing his testing unit. The commercial users represent the largest possible market for his Mandan, N.D.-based company. “I think that there is an awareness of that,” he says, for both his company and by fleet operators looking to add another element of safety to their own teams.

Recent work from the American Trucking Association helps to illustrate Wolf’s point. The ATA teamed up with the oil industry to compile a list of recommendations for roadway safety and driving practices earlier this year. “Trucks are essential workhorses of our country’s ability to take advantage of our shale gas and oil resources,” according to John Conley, co-chair for the National Tank Truck Carriers. But, the industry also has a responsibility to be safe, he added. Safety providers like Wolf or the team at Fairlight Medical Center are doing their part. “I think it really shows that what people are capable of is impressive,” Furlong says of safety service providers in the Bakken.