Safety and Integrity in a Digital World - Part One

01/24/2014

This is the first in a series of three blog posts on worker competence

A lot of time and money is spent on securing laptops, desktop PCs and corporate IT infrastructure from viruses and cyber-attacks, and it is this that most people visualize when the terms ‘digital’ and ‘safety’ are mentioned together. However, in a world that is driven by an increasing focus on competence, skills and sustainable operations, in the upstream oil and gas sector the (secure) digital world can do much to ensure the safety and integrity of a company’s physical assets.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 highlighted how the actions of contractors, temporary or agency staff can affect the reputation of an operator. Increasingly stringent regulations are being introduced, such as those from the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which recently announced that accountability for increased liabilities will be extended to incorporate contractors and service providers. In this dynamic and complex environment, how can digital tools help to ensure that safety and integrity are maintained?

One of the “hot” topics on many minds in the upstream oil and gas industry is competence. How can an operating company define competencies, maintain them and demonstrate that all of their staff are competent to perform the tasks that they are expected to perform? Furthermore, when additional staff are brought in for ad-hoc or campaign activities, how can their competence be measured and tracked?

Compliance with international standards such as IEC 61508 on the functional safety of Electrical/Electronic/Programmable Electronic Safety-related systems (E/E/PE, or E/E/PES) requires that “All persons involved in any overall, E/E/PES or software safety lifecycle activity, including management activities, should have the appropriate training, technical knowledge, experience and qualifications relevant to the specific duties they have to perform.” In addition, crucially, it requires that competence be “documented and assessed”.

Competence then is a critical area for any operating company. Any competence management system must be easy to use, widely accessible, and must be easy to add staff to. In the case of contractors or temporary staff, the competence system must also be able to qualify the knowledge someone pertains to hold. This system must also clearly show the areas in which an individual requires training, and must provide easy and linked access for staff to then take the training required – whether that training is an internally developed course, an externally provided course or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) training. With all these considerations in mind, the requirements for a functional competence system suddenly become a lot more complex!

Competence also interacts with typical Human Resource (HR) functions, since remuneration and benefits are typically based upon an individual’s role and the skills the individual demonstrates. For functions where there are clear bands of differentiation in pay between skill levels, competence becomes the measure upon which an individual’s pay is determined. The competence system therefore cannot be a standalone system and must integrate with other packages, such as Human Resource Management (HRM) software. These systems however do not cover competence directly – because competence relates to activities and knowledge pertaining to specific roles, not the higher level banding, grading and benefits structure typically covered in HRM.

About the author
Andy Coward is Senior Director, Business Solutions at P2 Energy Solutions

www.p2energysolutions.com

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