Oil and gas workers keep Grand River busy
by donna grayPost Independent StaffThe burgeoning natural gas industry that is bringing economic prosperity to western Garfield County is also impacting some fundamental services.Grand River Hospital District’s new chief executive officer Martie Wisdom said besides seeing more industrial-type injuries, the Grand River Medical Center in Rifle is seeing increased demand for occupational services.Wisdom told the county commissioners Monday she expects pre-employment assessments to hit 800 a month in the near future. The hospital provides testing for prospective gas field workers.Grand River plans to expand that service to include a “physical mock up of a (gas) job site,” Wisdom said, including truck, ladders and equipment involved in gas operations to test workers in lifting and agility.”We’ve also expanded our emergency room services,” Wisdom said. Visits to the ER increased from 5,000 in 2003 to 7,500 last year. About 15 percent of the injuries treated in the ER are job related, she said.Many of the people seen there work in the area but actually live out of state. “It’s amazing the number of people who visit (the ER) and have addresses in Arizona and Wyoming,” Wisdom said.Oil and gas “is a very dangerous business,” she added.Safety in the workplace is of major concern, said county manager Ed Green. “I’d like to see a cooperative venture” between the county and industry to provide a comprehensive safety training course.Wisdom agreed.”For every EnCana and Williams, there are many small (gas production) companies, and they need safety training,” she said.County Commissioner Larry McCown also pointed out that the gas industry has driven up assessed valuation of property in the west end of the county that has brought in the benefit of added tax revenues.Such revenues are “one of the great opportunities to build infrastructure,” Wisdom said.
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