The story of safety in the oil and gas industry is no fairy tale. Over the years it has dealt with incidents and accidents, but despite the obvious risks of remote working, harsh weather conditions and working with hydrocarbons, it remains one of the safest industries statistically. This is in no small part down to the strict criteria upon which personnel are judged, the continuous training programs in place and the management by conscientious leadership teams and regulatory bodies.
According to the recently released “Oil & Gas UK Health & Safety Report 2017,” the three-year rolling average nonfatal injury rate per 100,000 workers continues to improve year on year, from 430 in 2015 to 415 in 2016. This makes the industry safer than comparable industries, including construction, manufacturing and transport/storage.
Advances in occupational health practices, personal and process safety, and ongoing training remain vital. OPITO has been part of a cross-industry support network for training. In 2016 it worked closely with other regulators, HSE, industry representatives and subject matter experts (SMEs) to include compressed air emergency breathing system training for helicopter passengers into the mandatory Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET) and further offshore emergency training programs. This year these courses and the Tropical BOSIET training suite will be embedded into OPITO’s digital delivery.
Opportunity in reinvention
Training requirements change on a regular basis within every company, whether an SME, regionally focused business or large global conglomerate. In the international oil and gas industry, where innovation has become bread and butter, updates to training are even more crucial. Following major safety-critical incidents such as Deepwater Horizon or Piper Alpha, the safety practices of companies involved are scrutinized in great depth to avoid similar incidents. The latter incident brought about the creation of OPITO, which is funded and run by the industry for the industry. OPITO works to update training programs as the nature of workforce turnover means that new employees will arrive into the industry while others will leave.
In developing recognized standards in skills and competence, it is crucial to work with an international perspective. Recently the company has successfully implemented new OPITO onshore standards in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia with some of its partners. This has involved the implementation of stringent processes and procedures to ensure the competency of training providers that wish to deliver OPITO standards to workforces onshore.
Onshore safety training has for some time been the poorer relation of offshore safety training. The logistical and personnel movements combined with some of the harshest working conditions mean that safety is always the No. 1 priority offshore, and rightly so. However, facilities and process engineering teams are also put at significant risk during their working lives, and high standards are required. Companies are largely diligent and put in place their own procedures and guidelines, but standardization is key to certainty across different worksites. With this in mind, OPITO has brought into play its Onshore Emergency Response Framework, which is a suite of standards relating to onshore petroleum processing and refining facilities, including:
- Plant manager/incident commander initial response training and initial assessment (PMIC IR);
- Onshore control room operator emergency response assessment;
- Onshore fire/emergency response team leader training standard;
- Lead fire warden competence standard;
- Onshore fire/emergency response team member training standard; and
- Fire warden competence standard.
Direct commitment and desire for the onshore standards from operators has been evident. Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) already was training its workforce to OPITO’s offshore standards and has become the first operator to train its onshore personnel to benefit staff and bring value to the business. BSP had previously implemented its own emergency response procedures but saw the value in being ratified by an official standard.
BSP chose the OPITO PMIC IR standard for its onshore petroleum and refining facilities. The company has benefitted from the regular assessment of key personnel who work in safety-critical roles. The BSP leadership team is confident that all production and maintenance within its plants are operated in a safe manner. Employees have noticeably demonstrated their abilities to react appropriately in the event of an incident and manage all aspects of initial emergency response.
The OPITO PMIC IR has been undertaken by multiple shift teams at BSP, resulting in consistency across the company in-country. Employees have shown willingness to take part in the course and fed back to instructors that they found the training to be beneficial and that it has given them increased confidence in their roles and responsibilities.
Tangible training benefits
Wild Geese Group (WGG) in Malaysia became the first company to achieve approval to conduct the training on behalf of OPITO from its base in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. The trainers were pleased with the input and commitment of BSP to OPITO’s onshore petroleum processing and refining facilities standards and were encouraged that it was a success.
This is a great success story of a training provider responding to the changing needs of operators in its region and positioning itself to be able to deliver OPITO’s standards to further ensure the safety of those working in the onshore downstream sector.
It is clear that onshore and offshore workforces share synergies in their safety requirements, so ensuring they have fit-for-purpose safety training and competency standards is arguably the most significant factor regardless of discipline.
OPITO’s onshore emergency response framework provides clarity to employers around what is expected from them when operating across borders and in partnership with other organizations. It also gives personnel the confidence that their co-workers are trained to the same level as they are should an incident occur.
It is the responsibility of all oil majors, contractors and regulatory bodies to ensure skills and safety training is provided where necessary, both from a legislative and best practice point of view. Anything less means people, the environment, assets and reputations are at risk of being compromised. Whether onshore or offshore, in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Middle East or Europe, best practice can be shared with others. Safety has never been a unique selling point or commercially sensitive, and it never should be.
OPITO is exploring new technologies and working with new people as it remains a catalyst for skills and safety, linking with training providers and overseeing the delivery of its standards for a safer industry. Younger generations are entering the workforce onshore and offshore, with different experiences and new ideas. Industry leaders should embrace these differences by listening to digital learning experiences to evolve training platforms for the future.
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