Chris Lamson, President of ISTC, presents the group's new training center in Beaumont, TX. - Photo by Anton Riecher

Chris Lamson, President of ISTC, presents the group's new training center in Beaumont, TX.

Photo by Anton Riecher

ISTC needed a bigger name to go with its new $20 million state-of-the-art training and conference center in Beaumont, Texas. Founded as Industrial Safety Training Council in 1991, ISTC is now known as International Safety Training Council.

ISTC is international primarily through its Beaumont Emergency Safety Training (BEST) complex, said Chris A. Lamson, president and CFO of ISTC.

“People do come from many other countries to train at the fire field,” he said.

ISTC opened its new 67,000 square-foot facility in southeast Beaumont in April. Besides standard classrooms, the facility’s computer –based training labs seat more than 550 students with an additional 168 testing computers available in auditorium-style classrooms.

The complex features a conference center with four professional meeting rooms to accommodate student groups of various sizes. All the student facilities are equipped with the latest technology in audio-visual equipment.

“Save for a couple of desks, everything is brand new,” Lamson said. “That includes all the IT architecture – the computers, wiring, servers, racks, all of that. We were literally operating out of the old building in Nederland and the new headquarters here at the same time.”

Then, on Saturday, Feb. 20, ISTC held its last classes at its old address. On the following Monday, all operations switched to the Beaumont facility with no interruptions. “The changeover was handled with grace and professionalism,”Lamson said.

ISTC is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 educational organization providing safety, health, environmental, security and emergency services training in Southeast Texas. It provides a range of site specific and computer-based training for petrochemical plants, manufacturers, offshore marine services and energy facilities.

“We provide contractor safety compliance management for the plants,” Lamson said. “ISTC provides basic level OSHA standard and industry site specific safety training to the contractors working inside the plants.”

In 2015, ISTC conducted 408,600 courses to train more than 166,000 students.

Of the nearly 75 industrial facilities in the ISTC service area, each has different training requirements, he said. In some cases the requirements are preliminary matters such as drug screening, mask fit testing, custom badge printing and pulmonary function testing.

Beyond those standard entry requirements, ISTC provides computer-based training, facilitator-led training, distance learning and program development. Most work with Southeast Texas contractors requires hands-on training, Lamson said.

“They like to ensure that the students are trained and ready to work,” he said.

However, ISTC recently established an on-line distance learning division. Its biggest customer to date is Sunoco Logistics pipeline services which consists of approximately 5,900 miles of crude oil trunk and gathering pipelines in the southwest and midwest United States.

“Through Sunoco, we have about 500 contractor companies registered with us,” Lamson said. “Employees can take the course on-line and upload a passport photo to our website. We print out badges and mail them.”

Sunoco’s nearby terminal in Nederland has a total crude oil storage capacity of 24 million barrels in 130 storage tanks. ISTC recently completed site specific training for Sunoco pipeline terminals in Marcus Hook and Eagle Point, NJ, and is working to accomplish the same at the Nederland terminal.

Another project ISTC is developing for Sunoco is an on-line course to manage its pipeline inspector program.

“Sunoco inspectors are required to take a certain course every year,” Lamson said. “They want to hand that off to us.”

The time necessary to develop on-line distance learning varies with the complexity of the program being taught.

“Training software has evolved to keep the learner more engaged,” Lamson said. “We are in the process of upgrading our learning management system to HTML 5 which is the industry standard.”

With regard to ISTC’s association with BEST, applying online distance learning to industrial firefighting is another topic his organization hopes to address in the future, Lamson said.

“What can we do at BEST to better suit the needs of industry?” he said. “I think part of that question needs to be turned around. What do firefighters want?”

Through its association with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX,) ISTC is able to provide a broad range of nationally recognized OSHA courses to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to maintain voluntary compliance with OSHA regulations and provide a safe workplace for their employees.

“The vast majority of industrial fire brigades are volunteer,” Lamson said. “That means not only providing training to meet minimum requirements, but also introducing the brigades to scenarios like those they might encounter in their own facilities.”

The source of pride for ISTC is being able to design a course that fits the customer’s needs, he said.

“We don’t say ‘One size fits all,” he said. “Things have to be done in a certain way to meet accreditation standards, but how you design your two or three day training evolution is something we will work together on.”

Lamson, born in Port Arthur, is a 25-year Marine veteran. Much of his philosophy about critical thinking comes from his military experience.

“The right safety training can provide the necessary skills and knowledge that can be useful both in the workplace and at home,” he said. “The ability to recognize hazards and handle unsafe situations can help avoid life-changing events for everyone.”

Part of the fanfare behind the opening of the new center is a marketing campaign to make ISTC synonymous with safety.

“For too many years unless you used ISTC you didn’t know what it was,” Lamson said. “Everybody recognized where our facilities were but nobody knew what we did. We’re starting a brand new campaign because you can’t market a service if people don’t know about it.”

The new slogan for ISTC is short and sweet: “I am Safety.”