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Creating a new blend; MD on how unique programme is making global industry safer.

Byline: Graeme Smith

WORKING for the London Fire service Peter Conner saw the tragic consequences of human error.

Now as managing director of a company dedicated to training those who work in the global oil and gas industry to do their jobs safely his fire service experience has played an important role in the development of what he believes is a unique "blended learning" programme.

He was in semi-retirement and on a world cruise with his wife when, in Sydney Harbour, he received a text offering him the chance to put into practice the philosophy he had long believed in but had never had the chance to implement.

Now at Mintra Training Portal he and his team are combining e-learning and practical workshops to provide people with not just the knowledge they require to operate safely but also the ability to apply that knowledge.

Peter spent seven years in the London Fire Service as a sub officer and acting station officer and during that time he attended many major and sometimes traumatic incidents.

The most high profile was undoubtedly the Moorgate tube crash in 1975 when a train failed to stop at the terminus and crashed into the wall at the end of a tunnel killing 42 passengers and the driver and injuring a further 72.

"It took us five days to get everybody out," he said. "It was pretty grim. I was down the first afternoon and people were still conscious. We worked in teams of two firemen a nurse and a doctor and they basically went round and told us who was alive and we cut them out. Those who went in the morning had the worst job."

In the early 1980s Peter and his wife moved to Scotland to be near her family who lived in Aberdeen and he had planned to join Grampian Fire Service but was offered a job with British Airways Helicopters. With his safety knowledge he was asked to become involved in training.

"The first course I delivered was on the transportation of dangerous goods by air, which was a new piece of legislation which was enforced in the offshore industry in 1984.

"Because of my British Airways background I was asked to become involved in teaching it to oil and gas industry and I ended up going, as a British Airways employee, to SCOTA (the Scottish offshore Training Association) in Altens where the Petrofac Survival Centre is now.

"My claim to fame is I was the first person to deliver a dangerous goods by air course in Aberdeen."

Peter, who went on to secure several safety qualifications, was one of a number of ex-London firemen who joined the oil and gas industry at that time.

"In the fire service you had seen the consequences of not doing things properly and being an ex firemen gave you a bit of credibility with the offshore guys. Before there were safety officers offshore, the big push was for fire officers to run the fire teams and sub officers were poached from the services."

He continued to run a range of courses including safety leadership for offshore safety reps until after British Airways Helicopters was sold to Robert Maxwell's Maxwell Aviation in 1986 and renamed British International Helicopters.

It was not long before Peter left and set up his own training business, Protec, specialising in HSE and dangerous goods training for the oil and gas industry.

He sold Protec to RGIT in 1999, joining that organisation, and it in turn was acquired by Petrofac Training with which he remained in a variety of roles and locations including Dubai, Houston, Singapore and Aberdeen until he "semi retired" in 2010.

He had discussed with Aberdeen entrepreneur Jamie Bennett, who established and sold online learning company Atlas Interactive, how to combine their expertise to provide effective training programmes.

"I have a more classroom-based background and he has a more e-learning-based background and we had spoken about combining our knowledge to create blended learning. We tried through our various positions in companies to do that, but for reasons like management buyouts and acquisitions it hadn't been possible."

However as the ship on which he and his wife were cruising the world sailed into Sydney Harbour he received a text message from Bennett which made it a reality.

It invited him to become managing director of Mintra Training Portal and after a quick conference call he agreed.

"It was a no-brainer to have the opportunity to work with Jamie and try and achieve what we had always said we could achieve," he said.

"If you just take people into a classroom and preach to them or give them an e-learning course you're not giving them the opportunity to demonstrate that they can use the knowledge."

Mintra imparts the knowledge online and then runs workshops to enhance the learning experience.

Peter believes their offering is unique. Mintra recently became the first organisation awarded IOSH (The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) approval for its Control of Work blended programme. Control of Work is one the key elements of North Sea safety and it was a failure of that which led to the Piper Alpha disaster.

"We have built the human behavioural side into our training to ensure people recognise the consequences of their actions. I don't think enough emphasis has been put into that over the years. My fire service background probably helped because I attending road accidents and large fires as a result of someone making a mistake.

"We need to get that point across on a regular basis. I think people offshore sometimes don't realise why they are actually doing things They're going through the motions of getting a piece of paper do a job, but not understanding if they don't put enough time and effort into the identification of the hazards and control measures, the consequences can be catastrophic.

"We want to develop a culture in which people will think about it on a daily basis, just as you do when you step into a car. You instantly fasten your seatbelt because you feel naked without it having been educated over the years about the consequences of not wearing one.

"We need to create a culture in which people believe in the need to wear eye protection and understand why they wear hard hats."

Mintra Training Portal Ltd is a joint venture between Mintra AS in Norway and Aberdeen's Enerco Venture Company Ltd, of which Jamie Bennett is chairman and CEO. The directors and staff own 20% of the firm which, by the end of this year, will have delivered control of work courses to 4000 people.

Early next year it will move from its two current locations to a single office in Carden Place which will have five classrooms 60 workstations and up to 30 staff.

"Our aim is to promote blended learning and stop the repetitive training in the offshore industry," said Peter. "A contractor moving from one company to another is likely to go through another control of work training programme."

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TraumaticPeter was in first group of emergency services on scene at the 1975 Moorgate tube crash

PETER CONNER MINTRA TRAINING PORTAL
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Article Type:Industry overview
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 17, 2013
Words:1213
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