More training than ever before is needed to keep up with safety standards and the challenges of soil remediation work

Soil remediation – the removal of pollutants or contaminants from a site – is common in the oil and gas industry. But for the companies involved, there’s a never-ending cycle of training involved to make sure workers stay safe while returning soil to usable condition.

“It is continuous training,” says Steve Gruber, founder of Odyssey Environmental Services of Youngstown, Ohio.

Besides taking the OSHA 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) course annually, Odyssey employees attend special training in multiple areas including confined space, lead abatement, communications, heavy equipment operation and radiation, Gruber says.

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“Radiation training is the newest – we never thought we would have to deal with that, but we do,” he says. “Companies who come up from Texas to this part of the country didn’t realize that this kind of stuff was in the soil.”

Odyssey employees now go through a basic radiation course learning about how much can legally be present in the soil and what to do if they come into contact with radioactive soil. It needs to be collected and packaged in a special way before being shipped to the national radiation storage site in Utah.

Nelson Environmental Remediation in Alberta requires all its employees to go through a variety of trainings, including standard first aid, H2S Alive, confined-space entry, ground disturbance, transportation of dangerous goods and workplace hazardous materials information systems, says John Tucker, technical director/director of health and safety, adding that the required training is a bit different since they operate in Canada and the United States. He adds the large amount of equipment required for soil remediation work plays a role in how much training is needed, and it can vary from job to job, as well as variances in the different locations.

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Besides learning how to use different pieces of equipment and how to be safe in different environments – whether it’s a confined space or there’s radioactive material nearby – Gruber says employees go through other kinds of training too, including how to effectively communicate when working on sensitive jobs.

For example, Odyssey employees learn to use the company’s specialized two-way radios that have boom mikes that fit under their collars.

“That way, it doesn’t get in the way of what they’re doing,” Gruber says.

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The problems soil remediation companies encounter today aren’t new – it’s just there’s more awareness of the dangers, Gruber says. “This stuff was there before (in the soil), we just didn’t know about it. The government wants us to use the best available technology to correct these problems.”

As for keeping up with all the needed training, Odyssey works with a company that keeps an eye on the latest regulations and offerings and lets Gruber know when new trainings are available.

“There is a lot of training and equipment needed for these (soil remediation) jobs,” he says. “It’s a challenging job.”

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