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Two innovative safety training facilities are opening in the Houston area.
Honeywell Analytics, opened mid-September, and Scott Safety, coming late 2013, will serve the industry-heavy region with interactive training in a range of safety topics. The customers will be immersed in realistic work-place settings and will deal hands-on with simulated disasters. With Houston being the "epicenter" of the oil and gas industry, the companies hope to provide a necessary service to the region.
First-of-their-kind training centers
The Honeywell Life Safety Training and Customer Experience Center (CEC) became the first comprehensive safety center in the U.S. when it opened its doors mid-September. The unique facility, occupying a 10,000-square-foot site, was built with realistic workplace surroundings, including a catwalk, pipe track, climbing pole, confined tank, drilling tower, ladder simulator, confined space simulator, and wind simulator. Trainees operate the simulators to learn of potential hazards, including rescue operations on the 25-foot tower, in confined space, and on a wind turbine for industry-specific scenarios.
Honeywell's training will include demonstrations of personal protective equipment as well as fire and toxic gas detector equipment.
"We're really pushing not just the product, but solutions to solve overall safety needs," said Ben Owens, CFO of Honeywell, to Houston Business Journal.
The equal-sized Scott Safety facility will hold demonstrations and train customers with gas and flame detector equipment, breathing apparatuses, thermal imaging cameras, personal protective gear and other products.
Oil and Gas epicenter
The facilities are opening in a region that is concentrated with oil and gas industry. Modalpoint, an energy sales company, recently claimed the number of oil and gas companies in Houston is over 6,000. Far beyond being an oil town, they explain, Houston is the "global epicenter of the oil and gas vertical." For Honeywell and Scott Safety, selecting their city was no mistake.
"We saw the need, and it's huge a growth opportunity," said Owens to the HBJ, "not just for Honeywell, but also for safety."
The industry employs many people in the area. The Eagle ford shale, an oil rich layer in southern Texas, employs over 116,000 according to a recent survey by University of Texas – San Antonio. Offshore drilling and field work add to that figure.
"We're having a tough time finding these people, due mainly to the fact that much of the experienced workforce is retiring," Tim Cook, founder of Pathfinder Staffing, told the Houston Chronicle. With workers in high demand, employers are offering high salaries and sign-on bonuses to keep their workforce plentiful.
Safety in oil and gas
As with any industry that's booming, it's important to ensure safety is not overshadowed by profit and growth.
"Companies want productivity," said Owens. "They are looking at ways to manage their assets and use automated record-keeping. The days of a safety manager with a huge filing cabinet filled with certificates are gone."
Recent data on workplace fatalities reflect the change in industrial culture. An August report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that fatal injuries in oil and gas increased 23 percent in 2012. The number of fatalities is the largest since the BLS started keeping track in 1992, totaling 138.
"We take our role in protecting the safety of our customers very seriously," Bob Vigdor of Scott Safety told HBJ. "With Houston being the epicenter of the oil and gas industry, it was imperative that we create a facility that provides our customers with dedicated, superior service and support capabilities so that they can perform their jobs safely."
Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection.