Lawmaker Wants More Answers on Marcellus Shale Worker Safety Issues

marcellus-shale-safety_300x159WV Metro News

By Chris Lawrence

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the prevalence of natural gas drilling grows in West Virginia some state lawmakers are taking a closer look at the safety of those working on the drilling pads in the Marcellus shale.

Several lawmakers raised concerns during an interim legislative committee meeting Wednesday on the safety standards for gas drilling. The industry is defending against critics who believe the standards are not nearly stringent enough and made comparisons to the coal industry.

Coal miners are required to have a 20 or 40-hour course depending on the level of work they’ll be doing on the surface or underground. They then must work as a “red hat” alongside an experienced miner until they are fully certified. Natural Gas Association Executive Director Corky DeMarco told the committee there is a similar requirement for drilling rig employees developed in cooperation with the industry and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“We entered into an agreement with OSHA on the safety protocol for the employees who work in this industry,” DeMarco said. “Depending on what you’re doing in this industry you are required to have OSHA eight hour or 30-hour training.”

The standard employee safety certification comes from the International Association of Drilling Contractors. DeMarco told lawmakers although the safety card isn’t a requirement for employment, most major companies will not hire anyone without the certification.

The lack of the full-fledged requirement bothered Del. Randy Smith of Preston County who works in the coal industry.

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