Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

Producing the Permian Basin’s oil and natural gas resources often requires sending workers long distances, frequently to rugged, remote areas and by themselves.

That can make keeping those workers safe a challenge, but technical advances are providing solutions. 

Connected safety is growing, including in the oil patch. And it is tied to the wearable technology so prevalent today.

“When you think of connected safety, or when I think of connected safety, it’s workers with wearable technology,” said Jesse Wycoff, regional sales manager with Blackline Safety. “It’s like a beefed-up Fitbit.”

Speaking with the Reporter-Telegram by telephone, Wycoff said the cloud-based technology taps into the Internet-of-Things and cloud-based software to monitor and display data in real time.

In the Permian Basin, where workers frequently work along, he said the technology provides safety managers continuous situational awareness as well as providing a critical communications lifeline.

“We’ve seen lots of gas detectors in the Permian Basin. We hand one to a worker, he turns it on and gets to work. But if he’s hit by H2S (hydrogen sulfide), who’s going to know? The answer is the person wearing the device. How’s he going to get help if no one knows?” Wycoff said.

Wycoff referenced several incidents in the area, including the death of an Aghorn Energy employee and his wife from H2S exposure in October 2019. “Not to say that could have been avoided, but with the industry moving in that direction, it could make it less commonplace. At least that’s the goal.”

Because Blackline’s devices can also function as two-way radios, if that worker is exposed to hazardous gases, he continued, the worker will know, the safety manager will know. If that worker is bitten by a rattlesnake, he can alert his supervisor.

“If the user doesn’t move or if they fail to check in, the safety manager can send an alert to summon help and get that worker back home safely,” Wycoff said.

The devices can be used to alert field crews of weather events like lightning or tornadoes and the supervisors can see via their laptops that the crews have evacuated, he added.

According to Wycoff, Blackline found its way into connected safety through its development of monitors with GPS tracking capability. Then gas detection was added, he said.

“You can track your steps and heart rate; you can operate a toaster remotely, change the thermostat from a thousand miles away. Why not monitor for gas exposure?” he reasoned.

He said he assures customers that the device can be as smart or as dumb as they want. He also said the company take steps to meet industry standards on data security and privacy, utilizing Amazon Web Service to store data and incorporate other robust levels of security and redundancy. Regular audits are also conducted to ensure compliance.

Companies are seeking more robust protection, he said, and Blackline already has several large Permian producers using its equipment or about to use the equipment.

“Safety department with our larger customers have the same vision we have: That all workers should get back home safely,” he said. “We’d much rather have a rescue than a recovery.”

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