In three years of working in the fracking fields of North Dakota, Rick Tippett has witnessed two accidents, he said.

Tippett, 61, of Creal Springs, said he never feels he puts his safety at risk when on a horizontal fracking site. Tippett works six weeks straight and returns to his Southern Illinois home during his 10-day breaks.

Between two weeks of orientation focused solely on safety, provided by a multitude of gas companies and regulators; yearly safety training and company-provided protective gear, Tippett said safety is “the No. 1 priority” on a job site.

Tippett spoke with The Southern Illinoisan after statements from Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment issued Wednesday that fracking is unsafe for workers. The SAFE comments came a day after fracking proponents urged faster movement on drafting rules to regulate horizontal fracking.

Accidents he has seen involved one friend who hurt his hand from a fallen pipe and another who was uninjured when water used for fracking splashed on him.

In the second incident, emergency crews responded and washed the man down as a precaution, Tippett said.

“They will stop all work if anything happens,” he said of companies operating the fracking sites.

A former coal miner and truck driver, Tippett left the area with nine friends for his $122,000-a-year job with MBI Energy Services. All but three of the friends remain. Two left because of weather and the third left for health reasons unrelated to fracking, Tippett said.

Carl Hillman, 66, of Goreville was one of those workers to return to Southern Illinois for work, saying it was difficult to be away from his family for long stretches. He stayed in North Dakota from November to April.

He, too said he never felt in danger and added that all workers can stop production if they see any improper procedures.

He hopes fracking does come to Southern Illinois, he said.

“I hope and pray we see it soon. I’ll go back to it if it does,” he said.

One thing that stood out to Hillman were the help wanted signs he saw, and not just on the oil fields. He and Tippett said unemployment in the state is around 2 percent.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “A lot of those little towns wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the oil.”

Tippett works at wells responsible for clean-up work in case of spills, no matter how small. Most spills involve water used in fracking, which contains a small amount of chemicals, mostly detergent, he said.

Despite any environmental risk and the fracking opposition that does exist in North Dakota, Tippett and Hillman said the state’s landscape remains pristine with healthy crops. Hillman said people, himself included, regularly drink tap water and that he never became sick.

“It’s not like you see oil fields every where,” Tippett said. “It’s very green.”

Although fracking was in place before his move to North Dakota, Tippett described the quality of life in the state as good, which he attributed to the oil and gas boom in the state.

“It’s a way of life up here. The locals love it. It’s changed a lot of people’s lives. If they brought fracking to Southern Illinois, it would change everything. People would spend more money,” he said.

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