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OPITO reveals industry-wide uncertainty over competency

12 October 2011

The initial findings from new research being compiled for OPITO International have revealed a tension between ensuring compliant systems and achieving competency to perform safely within oil and gas companies.

Professor Rita Marcella of RGU
Professor Rita Marcella of RGU

In its drive to improve and align safety and competence standards in the global oil and gas industry, oil and gas skills and training standards body OPITO International commissioned Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Scotland to research how companies are assuring their workforce is competent, rather than simply compliant.

The full research, entitled Tick Safety Not Boxes, is sponsored by Aberdeen Drilling Consultants and will be presented at the annual OPITO Safety and Competency Conference in Abu Dhabi on 22 November 2011 where Lord Cullen, author of the Cullen Report into the Piper Alpha tragedy, is the keynote speaker.

Commenting on the early findings, Professor Rita Marcella of RGU (pictured) said: "We are already seeing indications of a tension between companies' focus on ensuring that their systems are compliant and their achievement of a real testing of their staff competence to perform safely and respond effectively to an emergency.

"There appears to be little consistency in the understanding of competency particularly in the context of the variety of standards to which companies have to comply globally. This would suggest that the industry requires a baseline understanding of what competency actually is and how it might best be developed, tested, maintained and updated.

"There is little commonality across the industry in terms of competency systems and countries across the globe interpret competency differentially. This is a challenge for the industry and raises concerns among several of the need to improve the situation to prevent any future incidents."

The research explores the primary goals of organisations in relation to addressing compliance and competence issues, to identify the key drivers for competency and to determine how compliance management systems integrate with competence management systems.

David Doig, OPITO Group Chief Executive said: "Safety is not just about compliance. The industry has to make sure that its training programmes deliver people who can do the job competently and safely. This research is aiming to gather an understranding of how the industry measures competency over compliance so that we can then roll-out best practice that will create a step-change and avoid another tragic incident."

OPITO is committed to improving safety and reducing risk for people, assets and companies in one of the most hazardous working environments.

The findings from the independent study will be used to help the industry enhance its ability to assure competency.

"Safety is paramount and the industry has a fundamental duty to make sure that its people are competent and trained to the best possible standards," added Doig. "Our aim at OPITO is to work across the industry around the world to ensure that training is delivered to common, high standards that will result in competent people and significantly improved safety."

Around 60 senior decision-makers from multi-national oil companies, independents and IOCs, along with major contractors and drilling companies are being interviewed as part of the research.

Douglas Hay, Managing Director for Aberdeen Drilling Consultants' Virtual Academy said:
"Our aim, when we launched our e-learning programmes was to help create a more comprehensive level of understanding among today's oil and gas professionals. We believe when equipped with understanding, competence flourishes, a fact we're delighted to see confirmed by the research results."

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