Mobile medical trailers can supply injured workers with immediate care until qualified help arrives.
A gas and oil veteran, an emergency medical technician
and a claims adjuster walk into a building ... What may sound like the opening line of a good story is actually the beginning of an alliance struck to develop a self-contained emergency safety trailer specifically for use at remote sites in the gas and oil industry.
Nomadic Safety, Inc. of Loveland, Colo., designs and builds the trailers to provide immediate medical assistance until qualified medical teams arrive. The company was founded in 2006 by Joshua Galindo, an oil and gas veteran with 10 years of industry experience under his belt.
Galindo recalls an incident at a remote fracking site where a steel cap blew off a high-pressure tank, severing a co-worker’s leg.
“They didn’t have the proper equipment to deal with the emergency,” recalls Galindo. “The worker was placed in the bed of a pickup truck. There was a first aid kit for the site, but it was in the supervisor’s truck, which wasn’t close by, so co-workers used strips of cloth from a pair of coveralls to help treat the wound. I thought that gas, oil and mining contractors needed something better to offer their workers until qualified medical help arrived.”
Galindo assembled a team to develop the new concept.
Justin Wheat, now general manager of Nomadic Safety, had prior experience with disaster recovery as a catastrophe claims adjuster and aiding in the relief efforts during hurricanes Katrina and Gustav in Louisiana and Mississippi. “I witnessed firsthand what effect a lack of supplies and preparation had on an emergency,” he recalls.
Operations manager Michael Schreiner has six years of experience as a first responder and Emergency Medical Technician in northern Colorado in a service area that covers 4,000 square miles.
Response time is critical
“When we respond to a call at a remote drill site, it can take up to an hour to arrive by land and 30 minutes by helicopter,” he says. “I’ve seen the inadequacies of what might be provided in the field. By the time we arrive, we’re usually playing catch-up. If we can have even basic medical care for patients to get them stabilized and comfortable before we arrive, they will have better outcomes and return to work faster.”
The company first looked at what sort of safety equipment is typically offered at a remote site.
“While the largest exploration companies may be well-equipped with excellent medical facilities, the standard offering for most oil and gas contractors was a shower trailer with a first aid kit,” says Wheat. “We wanted to stock up a trailer as a medical safety station with a buffed-up first aid kit, the shower and eye wash and enough medical equipment to deal with an amputation, arterial bleeding and other medical emergencies before transferring care to a paramedic.”
Aluminum trailer base
The construction of each medical unit begins with a 17-foot, V-nose trailer, custom-built to Nomadic’s specifications. The width of the trailers is 8 feet. Exterior siding is made of 0.03-inch aluminum. Interior insulation measures 2.5 inches along one wall and 3 inches along the other. The trailer’s belly pan is also sprayed with 2 inches of insulating foam.
“The added insulation provides protection against temperature extremes, cold or hot,” says Wheat. “Colorado provides plenty of both. The trailers are rated from -50 degrees F to more than 100 degrees.”
A combination space heater and air conditioner doubles as an air circulator.
The trailers are designed to ride a half-foot higher than the standard issue trailer, with 1.5 feet of clearance to travel rough, rocky or muddy terrain. The trailer weighs 7,050 pounds with an empty water tank, but weighs 10,000 pounds with 315 gallons of water, enough to run the emergency drench shower and eyewash for 15 minutes continuously, according to the ANSI Z358.1 shower and eye wash standard. A typical field truck can tow the trailer.
“Outfitting the trailer with enough room to carry the amount of water specified by OSHA and ANSI required careful planning,” says Schreiner. “You want the vehicle to be compact and still leave enough room in the trailer for medical equipment and treatment.”
The trailer rides on four tires attached to heavy-duty axles and a beefed-up suspension. Interior loads are strategically placed to provide balance. There is no safety certification available for safety trailers, although they do need to be certified by both the Colorado and federal Department of Transportation for roadworthiness.
Most remote drilling sites provide their own electrical hookup through the light plant. However, the trailer is outfitted with a heavy-duty, 8,000-watt diesel generator by Cummins Onan, typically found in recreational vehicles. The generator produces 120 volts of electricity, both AC and DC.
“We’ve watched a trailer run for two-and-a-half days straight on a half tank of diesel,” says Wheat. “More than enough time for help to arrive in the most remote emergency.”
A battery backup provides additional power to support the emergency shower in the eventuality that no other generated power is available.
The trailer also offers a fire extinguisher and a small sink featuring a second eyewash station.
Medical treatment facility
The safety and medical treatment equipment features an improved first aid kit that provides more of what might be needed in an emergency, with supplies for up to 100 workers. It also includes splints, tourniquets, ice packs, aspirin and painkillers, large gauze pads and treatments, such as coagulants, that will help constrict the flow of blood from injuries.
A full-sized bed allows an injured worker to lie down and stretch out. Paramedics can use a built-in ramp to provide easy access to the trailer, allowing smooth transport of patients to either a ground or air ambulance.
First aid training is not required to operate the safety trailer, although Nomadic will arrange courses on request, including First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Emergency Instruction Device (EID) and Emergency Eye Wash and Shower training.
Medical treatment and first aid instructions are provided electronically through an EID equipped with a touch pad, that provides simple instructions.
The EID is preprogrammed to coach users to treat hundreds of emergencies, providing audio instructions on how to respond in both English and Spanish. Visual aids posted inside the trailer accompany the instructions provided by the EID.
“The instructions walk you through each possible injury,” says Schreiner. “The device continues to ask simple yes and no questions until it understands the situation, then provides accurate instructions on how to proceed and further treat the injured person. Having that voice support gives people the confidence to apply the first aid they have available to them and helps control chaos during an emergency.”
The types of injuries are color-coded and linked to a series of matching colored trauma packs, which contain the supplies necessary to treat the associated injury. A bag may, for example, be matched to injuries associated with heat or burns.
An automated external defibrillator provides similar automated instructions to the user.
The trailers are leased, not sold, primarily to oil and gas service companies and resource construction crews. Part of the leasing contract includes remote monitoring and GPS tracking of the units through satellite.
“We can monitor the trailers anywhere in the world,” says Schreiner. “We can set the monitoring system to send us texts or email messages if the temperature of the shower water, for example, falls below a certain level, or if fuel and water levels fall below a particular volume. When that happens, a service technician will respond to the trailer and service it.”
The water inside the tanks is also circulated and the eyewash stations are tested each month.
“The rationale behind a safety trailer should never be to entirely replace qualified medical help,” says Wheat. “However, by supplying all of the care that can reasonably be offered before medical personnel arrive, injured workers will have better outcomes and return to work more quickly following recovery.”