Appalachian Basin

A Local Company Goes International Thanks to Marcellus Shale

Christian Richardson
Part Owner, Magna-Solutions, LLC
Williamsport, PA Native & Resident

My company, Magna-Solutions, LLC designs and carries secondary flame-resistant (FR) work wear, raingear and accessories, to protect the men and women of today’s petrochemical and energy industries. Magna-Solutions LLC, based out of the Williamsport, PA area, was created to service the huge volume of workers in the energy sector who needed FR apparel and accessories. The FR Clothing Apparel industry generates $900 million dollars in revenue annually, and in late 2010-OSHA mandated all workers operating on active rig sites must wear FR gear clothing.

Michele Richardson(left) and Andrea Franzen (right) receiving the Emerging Business of the Year award.

Getting Started in the Natural Gas Industry

When the Natural Gas Industry came into the Marcellus area in 2008, the city of Williamsport geared up to help the new coming industry.  Williamsport, now considered the energy capital of Pennsylvania, is currently ranked among the top 10 fastest-growing small cities in the USA. Magna is a prime example of a new business that is experiencing positive growth that is directly attributable to the developing Natural Gas Industry in northeast PA.

Many analysts may have initially believed that multinational energy companies, national trucking companies, or construction outfits were the only businesses that would benefit from the energy industry expansion. There are, however, a large number of small businesses that are experiencing growth, creating jobs in the area and benefiting monetarily. This opportunity provided Magna the chance to show the positive effects of energy exploration on small business.

Magna-Solutions is a local business, officially formed in 2011 by partners native to Williamsport who recognized the need to provide certified FR gear to the corporations operating within and around the Marcellus Shale area. The idea for Magna Solutions was formed at a party on Halloween night, 2010. Jay Franzen, a Williamsport native and veteran of the gas and oilfield supply industry, had recognized the explosive growth taking place throughout Lycoming County. He spoke with Michele Richardson (another Williamsport native and his wife Andrea’s cousin) about the local energy industry’s immediate need for flame-resistant clothing.

OSHA Releases FR Regulations for Natural Gas

Around this time, OSHA had just mandated FR Clothing to work on rig sites, and enacted swift fines to companies caught not wearing these safety garments.

On March 26, 2010 the OSHA Memorandum, dated March 19, from Richard Fairfax and Steve Witt, who head the state programs unit, clarifies that OSHA expects its compliance officers to issue citations when employers fail to provide or ensure the use of flame-resistant clothing (FRC) during certain oil and gas well drilling, service, and production work.  Posted online by OSHA, the memo about OSHA standards 1910.123, 1910.132(A) and 1910.132(D) is addressed to regional administrators and state plans. It was issued to clarify OSHA policy, according to the document and notes that flame-resistant clothing includes both flame-resistant and fire retardant treated clothing.

The memo says OSHA standards 101-.132, 1910.132(A) and 1910.132(D) are needed because of the potential for flash fires during the tasks; it says for a citation under OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.132(A) to be issued, there must be evidence the employer had actual notice of a need for protective equipment, or that a reasonable person familiar with the circumstances, such as facts unique to the industry, would have recognized a hazardous condition warranting the use of that equipment.” The potential for flash fires is lower when the operation in question has not reached gas and hydrocarbon producing zones, the memo state. So it says FRC is usually not needed during initial rig up and before reaching active hydrocarbon zones, unless other activities warrant its use. The memo on OSHA standards 1910.132, 1910.132(A) and 1910.132(D), lists well servicing operations and production related operations where FRC should be provided and worn, including open hole work, cementing, stimulation, equipment openings, hot work operations, tank heating, and using open flame. Compliance officers should issue a citation when the employer has failed to ensure employee-owned FRC is properly maintained and sanitary, has failed to provide FRC that is of safe design and construction for the work being performed, when the FRC is defective or damaged, or where the employer failed to provide it at no cost to the workers(s). Employers may consult NFPA 2112 and 2113 to comply, it says.

Michele, with over 10 years experience in the New York fashion industry as a menswear designer, was able to develop a sample line of custom FR work wear, which later grew into Magna FR. Andrea Franzen, Jay’s wife and a Williamsport business owner, joined in the business venture with Christian Richardson (Michele’s husband and a Penn State alumni) to form Magna-Solutions LLC in January 2011.  In a sluggish national economy, the four partners self-financed the new business. Magna Solutions persevered and became cashflow positive in only six months.  

Magna-Solutions is Woman Owned and Operated

Andrea and Michele now handle daily operations, making Magna-Solutions a woman owned and operated business. Today, Magna-Solutions is the only company in the area that specializes in the natural gas industry and supplies all-FR gear, oilfield boots and FR accessories. Magna also designs and produces their own line of FR work wear- MAGNA-FR, and also exclusively carries over 12 different work garment manufacturers. Magna can customize any and all work wear to meet the unique needs of each customer, and can provide gear in an almost infinite amount of variations- from different FR fabrics and colors, to custom logos, embroidery and specifications; Magna can satisfy virtually any request.

Magna-Solutions will go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. Magna’s sales staff (who are all Safeland Trap certified) frequently visit rig sites to ensure every detail of an order is just right, as well as to size up a company’s entire workforce.  Michele and Andrea are always willing to educate a client on two facts- that an investment in FR clothing can save lives; and that the cost of FR clothing pales in comparison to the cost of treating and rehabilitating just one worker after a flash fire or arc fire accident in which non-FR clothing is worn.

Looking Beyond the Marcellus Shale

Magna-Solutions continues to expand regionally, nationally and internationally. Most recently Magna visited the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago to confirm orders with international energy exploration corporations, to meet with the Trinidad and Tobago government, and to conduct interviews with national newspapers. Magna has even contracted two FR gear specialty factories which allows them to serve the entire range of energy industry operators- ranging from small outfits to multinational corporations. From 1 coverall to custom orders of 60,000+ pieces, Magna can do it all.

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