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Perspectives: Anthony Zacniewski, Bandera Drilling – Passion to protect people drives safety goal

By Joanne Liou, editorial coordinator

Anthony Zacniewski’s background in law enforcement helped establish his passion for personal safety.

The transition from patrolling highways to roughnecking in oilfields sparked a culture shock when Anthony Zacniewski, HSE director at Bandera Drilling and chairman of the IADC Rig Moving Committee, stepped foot into the oil and gas industry more than a decade ago. Differences aside, his experience with the New Mexico State Police for seven years laid the foundation of his goal to operate incident-free.

“I used to be a police officer. It never leaves your blood,” he said. “It started this passion for personal safety, not only for myself but for the guys I’m working with.” Since Mr Zacniewski patrolled the Hobbs and Carlsbad areas of New Mexico, he was often exposed to the buzz from local oilfields and the roughnecks themselves, which piqued an interest in what the industry had to offer.

In 1996, he joined Nabors as a roughneck, and in 2003, he became a safety representative for Key Energy Drilling. “I was involved in a couple of incidents that could have been detrimental to my health, as well as my fellow coworkers, so I wanted to step up and prevent that from happening,” he said. “I kept talking to people and pushing buttons, and I got my chance with Key Drilling.” He tightened his hook on safety when he joined Bandera in 2005, and after five months, he was appointed HSE director.

Roughneck Roots and Loyalty

Given his seven years working on the rig, Mr Zacniewski expressed his empathy toward the daily life and work of a roughneck. “I know when it’s raining and I’m sitting in my office, there’s somebody out there that’s pulling on the slips. I know firsthand what they’re going through,” he stated. “I know how they talk. I know how they act. They can’t do something and then turn around and lie to me about how it happened.”

With five rigs across Texas, Bandera employs approximately 100 people – many who have more than 15 years with the company. Mr Zacniewski praises the mutual loyalty and respect exemplified by management and the company’s work force. During the 2009 market slump, Bandera’s owner Ray Brazzel reached into his own pockets to pay bills and salaries to avoid layoffs, Mr Zacniewski explained.

The company’s culture of growth is supported by its investment in training, safety and people. “We would rather build a toolpusher or manager from within this company because those are the people who understand what the company culture is and what the goals are,” Mr Zacniewski said. “It’s a lot better to grow your own people.”

Passion for the People

In the midst of new and regularly updated requirements and regulations, the drive for safety might be lost between the desire to protect people and the desire to comply with rules to avoid a lawsuit, Mr Zacniewski explained. “Companies may preach, ‘safety this, safety that,’ and it’s not because of a passion to do the right thing to keep people from getting hurt, it’s a passion to keep from being sued,” he said. “If everybody would turn their passion into keeping people from getting hurt and change their mindset, I think the industry would be a lot more successful. There are plenty of regulations in place. Let’s use the ones we have and protect our people.”

“My passion is for a zero-incident workplace. The culture of Bandera is: We’re going to drill these wells; we’re going to get the job done; we’re going to get them done safely and efficiently. You don’t have to get hurt. It’s not the nature of the business  as far as Bandera Drilling is concerned,” Mr Zacniewski stated. “That’s where they led me to my goal, and I want to push it forward and make it a reality.”

Industry Support

After Mr Zacniewski assumed the HSE leadership position at Bandera, he became an active member of IADC, attending every onshore and HSE conference since 2005. He praises the association for the wealth of resources and support it offers. “You’ve got a group of people here who are willing to help if they can, and if they don’t have the answer, they’re going to help you get the answer,” he said. “The more involved I became with the IADC, the more my knowledge grew, the bigger the network I could contact grew and the more information I’ve been able to obtain.”

Mr Zacniewski joined the Rig Moving Committee in 2007 and became chairman this year. The committee plans to move forward with documents to set truck guidelines and truck driver competencies.

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