This month, I would like to talk about training, one of the most important aspects of an effective safety program.

We all want to have a safe and productive work force. The only way for drill crews to be both safe and productive is for them to have the best understanding of the work practices, processes and governmental standards applicable to the task at hand. In drilling and pump work we deal with overhead lifting, rotating shafts, pinch points, high pressure lines, extreme noise, high voltage, falls, confined spaces and excavation work. With all of these hazardous on our jobsites, it becomes unrealistic to think our workers can safely perform all of their tasks safely and efficiently without some sort of focused training.

Studies show safety training increases the reporting of injuries and illnesses. But it also has real safety effects on days-away-from-work incidents, especially in smaller companies. Additionally, mentor-style training on the back of a drill rig can help newer employees or employees moving up in the ranks up to speed. Given all these benefits, the importance of training becomes clear.

I hold training near and dear, as many of you know from my past articles, or having heard me speak at a convention or on the Brock and Dave podcast. After all, I work for a training facility. As a matter of fact, I write this as I wait in a classroom for a respiratory protection class to start (so I can maintain my teaching credentials). Training is an instrumental part of our industry. Many of us attend state conferences or the National Ground Water Association’s Groundwater Week each year. These shows offer great opportunities for training and networking. Just one such networking opportunity recently turned into a great training opportunity.

An Opportunity for Groundwater Training

Derek Good and I attended the virtual 2020 Groundwater Week put on by the NGWA this past December. A trainer with Franklin Electric offered one presentation on pump controls. One aspect of this particular show I found helpful was that, because it was virtual, you had the opportunity to stop by the presenter’s virtual booth and get one-on-one time with representatives of that company. After the presentation, Good and I visited Franklin Electric’s virtual booth and met with Greg Parker, Dan Delaney and Rachel Batdorff.

They asked us about our connection to the water well industry, and Good told them that we run a U.S. Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship for the water well, geothermal and geotechnical industries. They asked about our program, and we explained the apprenticeship, how it works and a little bit about our curriculum. They indicated that they were interested in helping us with our pump maintenance and electrical control curriculums. Through the spring and early summer this year, we met with the Franklin Electric team which had now added two subject matter experts: Dave Batdorff (controls and troubleshooting) and Greg Herbert (line shaft turbine pumps) to the team that would to assist us in our third-year classes.

As the class finally approached, all students were enrolled in the company’s Franklin University, a top-notch online program, to prepare them for the live classroom portion. The theme of the week of classes was, “What are pumps and pumping systems?” On Monday, Good and I ran students through the teardown, maintenance and a rebuild of three types of pumps utilized in mud rotary drilling. Tuesday students set up and conducted flow testing on a well they would pull and maintain later in the week. They collected data for a baseline of pump and well efficiency to compare with data for the same well after pulling and maintaining the pump.

Wednesday and Thursday was Franklin's time to present. Greg Herbert gave a wonderful 2.5 hour presentation on maintaining and setting line shaft turbine pumps, followed by the students heading into the field and tearing down a line shaft turbine pump. Dave Batdorff gave a presentation on electrical pump basics and troubleshooting of well control systems, followed by the students going into the field and hooking meters to three different sizes and types of control systems to monitor pump performance.

Students then pulled the submersible pump they had done baseline testing on earlier in the week. They conducted maintenance, set it, and then did another round of pump testing and control monitoring. Batdorff concluded that day with further electrical training.

We spent Friday in the field doing a little drill training and site cleanup.

The representatives from Franklin Electric provided our students an amazing opportunity to learn from true subject matter experts. Their professionalism, attention to detail and personable teaching style made for an environment conducive to advanced learning. While the students work in the water well, geotechnical and foundation drilling fields, even the students not currently working for a water well contractor commented about how much more comfortable they would be if they switch industries and wind up doing pump work. The addition of subject matter experts from Franklin Electric to our training has enhanced our students’ knowledge, which provides the companies they work for a smarter more productive workforce.

Hydrogeology Field Course Pays a Visit

Thursday of that week also saw Western Michigan University’s Hydrogeology Field Course bring 25 students to our facility to learn a little about different drilling processes. The day stated with a short lecture about working with drill crews and how to utilize them as a resource. We followed this with a demonstration of different drilling processes: hollow-stem augering and sampling, mud rotary, DTH hammering and, finally, foam drilling. During demonstrations, we took time to explain the methodology behind each drilling method. Whenever possible a student from the third year class was utilized to operate the drill. Matt Reeves, Ph.D., and Tom Howe, both of WMU facilitated discussions with their students while the drilling commenced. We also watched a thorough mud-testing demonstration by fellow The Driller writer Brock Yordy and Chris Bower, formerly of Baroid IDP and now business development for Bentonite Performance Minerals, a Halliburton Company.

In my years as a drilling trainer, this was one of the best weeks of training I have seen provided to the industry. I am proud to have been a part of it. This type of collaboration with industry, academia and trainers fosters a sense of mutual admiration that will help to move our industry forward. Many thanks to Franklin Electric and Western Michigan University for the help and opportunity. If the training your company has doesn't leave you this excited, maybe reach out to a supplier or manufacturer and see how bringing in a subject matter expert can enhance your knowledge and profitability.

Until next month, keep turning to the right.