The current market downturn has resulted in significant reductions in the head counts of service companies. As fallout, the “big crew change” that the industry has been anticipating for years might happen a little bit sooner than expected. When markets recover, it is unlikely that companies will be rehiring the people that left the organizations in the first place. Some people have moved to other industries, while others have chosen to retire.

Service organizations have been through this scenario before and recognize that the loss of experienced hands can lead to an increase in incidents. As the industry begins to recover, companies will hire people who lack industry experience, whether they are fresh out of college or recruits from other industries. What can companies do to prepare for the coming influx of new hires? The industry should take the downturn as an opportunity to make strategic impacts on safety.

Companywide systems and processes

During the past 18 months to two years Weatherford has instituted a simple but effective system that organizes everything from expectations of HSE performance to streamlined processes and procedures. The company’s Operational Excellence and Performance System (OEPS) sets the organization’s standards for service quality, health, safety, security and the environment (QHSSE).

The OEPS also puts all relevant operational documents and procedures online so that they are available to employees no matter where they are working. Following the implementation of the OEPS, Weatherford has seen an increase in positive performance year over year, with 2015 being the company’s safest year yet.

Because these changes were made systematically at a companywide level, safety is now embedded in the company’s culture, driving continual improvement and ensuring that the company only gets better. At the end of the day, the engine for improvement internally is driven by the need to improve service quality to customers.

Safety-service-quality connection

By streamlining all operational information into a single system, Weatherford can better understand what, when and why employees engage in activities that pose medium-to-high risks to the organization. As risks are identified, the company ensures there are technical training programs in place to address those risks. These programs will become especially valuable as the big crew change takes effect.

With an existing process in place to onboard employees, provide continued education and ensure competency, the challenge of increasing head count becomes much more important to address head on. The very first touch point in this process is the Right Start onboarding program, which is aligned to the International Association of Drilling Contractors, Rig Pass and other industry expectations.

Once employees complete Right Start, they become part of the Short-Service Employee Program, which can last anywhere from six months to one year. As they progress through their career with Weatherford, continued competence assurance assessments and trainings will be provided.

The company’s Competence Assurance Process evolved through risk-based evaluation and gap analysis to ensure the right personnel are selected for each task. All of this work was done with an end goal of improving the service delivered to the customer. The time and capital spent to build a trained, qualified and competent workforce yields long-term benefits, including fewer service disruptions, improved safety and reduced environmental risk.


A company can put a safety and service quality management system in place, educate employees on it and tell people about it. But unless a company can get out in the field as a leadership team and verify things are happening, it will be difficult to make measured progress.

Weatherford addressed this by implementing new documentation procedures and by placing high-level leadership involved in five critical locations in every region. As part of the OEPS implementation process, the company conducted audits at its facilities around the world. Areas for improvement were identified, strategic action plans were implemented and leadership provided oversight to make sure any problems were addressed. The verification program drives global uniformity and enables lessons learned to be shared throughout the company to continuously enhance safety and service quality.

In addition, the company developed the easy-to-use IOS application called Verified, which is being installed on every operational manager’s device. Verified can be used during supervisor site visits to confirm that operations are being conducted successfully. If any issues are found, auditors can very quickly provide feedback and raise actions within the system that need to be done.

Result: record-setting safety performance

When Weatherford was faced with reducing its head count, the company did so strategically to keep the most trained and competent people. These efforts, combined with the implementation of the OEPS, resulted in a record-setting safety performance for the company in 2015—despite the year being a low point for the industry in many ways.

Among the safety improvements recorded in 2015 were a 16% reduction in the total recordable incident rate, a 23% decline in the lost-time incident rate and a 33% decrease in the preventable vehicle incident rate. Forty-three of the company’s manufacturing facilities experienced no lost-time incidents, no recordable injuries and no preventable vehicle incidents.

In September 2016 Chevron recognized Weatherford for achieving a record of 15 years with zero lost-time incidents at the operator’s Malongo Base in Cabinda, Angola. Additionally, Weatherford Tubular Running Services recently completed a large-scale deepwater development campaign for Chevron Australia with zero nonproductive time (NPT). The mechanized casing-running system with 14-50 and 7.6-30 power tongs was instrumental in executing a nine-well campaign for the Chevron-operated Wheatstone Project in Western Australia. The campaign involved making up 6,923 tubular connections during 68 casing and completion operations and was completed without NPT.

Laying solid groundwork

The importance of setting a high bar for current employees and new hires through safety and service quality programs cannot be underestimated. Companies throughout the industry must strive to ensure that every employee returns home safely to their loved ones at the end of the day, that the highest level of service quality is delivered to clients and that the environment is the same or better than how it was found.

By achieving a safe and healthy working environment now, the industry will be ready to integrate new employees to the highest safety standards when the rush of new hires begins.