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Compliance versus competence debate in the oil and gas industry.

A worker needs to have a combination of both competence and compliance training to maintain safety and skills, says Draager Marine & Offshore's training commercial manager Rachel Gater

Due to the hazardous nature of the oil and gas industry, health and safety within the sector is always a priority. With the rise of the e-learning sector, the question over whether a worker is 'competent' or simply 'compliant' to do their job is open to debate.

In my view, competency is observable knowledge, skills and attitude, whereas compliance is a legal requirement where boxes must be ticked.

Competencies go above and beyond compliances. For example, a permit to work inside a confined space offshore would be a compliance, but having the knowledge, skills and experience of carrying out that task day after day would be what makes you competent.

Perhaps, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), offers one of the best definitions of competence in health and safety in the oil and gas industry. "To be competent, an organisation or individual must have sufficient knowledge of the tasks to be undertaken and the risks involved. They must have the experience to carry out their duties in relation to the project, recognise their limitations and take appropriate action to prevent harm to those carrying out work, or those affected by the work.'

While Step Change in Safety also offers a more oil and gas-specific definition: "The ability of every director, manager and worker to recognise the risks in their operational activities and then apply the right measures to control and manage those risks."

At Draager, we are an Opito-approved centre for Authorised Gas Testing and H2S training and actively measure competency in order for an organisation to identify any gaps or weaknesses and act on these. This allows a company to build on its strengths which can improve business performance, while it also increases employee engagement and retention. After all, a competent workforce increases profitability.

We can monitor competence levels by monitoring an employee's formal training and can do on-the-job evaluations providing regular, ongoing assessments. From Draager's point of view, health and safety will always be an ongoing process.

E-learning for offshore: In the current economic environment, E-learning certainly has flexibility, it's green and on the surface, it's cost-efficient. However, while it is a good supporting tool, it can never replace face-to-face training which engages employees more and measures competency more efficiently.

Just because an employee takes a course and is deemed competent by the training instructor, doesn't mean that's the end and they're completely competent in the field. You need to aim higher if you want to be skilled in that particular field and working on competencies daily in the workplace cannot be stressed enough.

Being compliant maintains safety and skills, but it doesn't improve them. A worker needs to have a combination of both competence and compliance training to improve and maintain safety and skills.

For example, you're about to embark on an offshore gas-testing course where you will be monitored. You might have an understanding of the course which shows you are compliant in how to use a Permit To Work system, but it's not until you actually go offshore and do it in your job on your own, without supervision, that competence kicks in.

A certificate may prove learning ability, but these learned skills have to be used and analysed in practice in order to achieve competency.

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Publication:Oil & Gas News
Date:Nov 30, 2015
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