Neil Norman, Founder and Head of Innovation at Human Recognition Systems, explores how mobile mustering can bring both safety and security benefits to the oil and gas sector.
The oil and gas industry needs to recruit 120 000 new employees worldwide over the next decade to avoid a skills shortage. With a jobs boom1 on the horizon it is an exciting time, but this widespread recruitment brings with it a number of health and safety and skills vetting challenges. Operators need to ensure they are putting sufficient measures in place to protect their workforce and critical infrastructure at this time of growth.
The challenge of ensuring the right people are employed and appropriately skilled is further compounded by much of the demand being in remote, hard-to-reach locations. However, companies all over the world have a responsibility, under a number of legislative measures including the UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to protect workers and accurately record health and safety incidents. New rules and regulations, such as the EU’s Directive2 on the safety of offshore oil and gas operations, ensure that the industry reacts effectively and promptly should an accident occur.
These factors demand a new approach - and this is where mobile technology has a part to play, by managing the complexities of health and safety and compliance in often disconnected locations.
The benefits of embracing mobile technologies
Companies operating in the upstream E&P space often set health and safety and HR policies centrally, away from the major places of production. This places a heavy reliance on each facility to interpret and apply corporate policies.
Mobile technology provides the tools to deliver a consistent approach across the organisation, ensuring that workforce management remains a simple task. Deployable across both onshore and offshore locations, mobile solutions can be seamlessly integrated into the operator’s existing access control system, with data on the central server being synchronised to handheld devices.
From a health and safety perspective, mobile devices can be deployed to establish instant mustering points during incidents, with integrated smart card or biometric technologies used to automatically verify a worker’s identity and their safe location on a site. This provides essential roll call information to incident response teams in the event of an emergency, such as their last known location, photograph, date of birth and blood group, even if the main access control server is unavailable; enabling rapid response and minimising unnecessary exposure to dangers.
The technology places valuable information in the hands of the operative – whenever and wherever needed. In addition to the mustering benefits, operatives can spot-check workers to ensure that the right people with the right skills are in the right location at any point in time, the importance of which cannot be underestimated with facilities often employing individuals from both the local and international communities.
Protecting your workforce on the move
Regrettably, a number of organisations have been slow to embrace mobile technologies, relying all too often on manual or static data collection processes and creating potential risks to workforce safety in the process. This needs to change in order to face the logistical challenges ahead.
By introducing cloud-based management technology and extending the access control system to mobile devices, energy operators can enforce a consistent employee identity standard and integrate this information with existing access control solutions. Doing so offers real-time information for mustering or skills spot-checks to both prevent and support an emergency. By providing operatives with mobile devices such as the MSite Mobile system, informed decisions can be made.
What does the future hold?
Companies operating in the E&P sector have already recognised the logistical challenges, and many international oil companies are reviewing their existing systems with a clear drive towards integrated technology approaches to the convergence of identity, skills and security information.
The not-too-distant future will see companies embracing mobile technologies. Initially the key focus will be on integrating employee identity and skills management with existing access control systems for security purposes, while extending this capability to mobile devices to empower operatives in the field. In due course, mobile capabilities will be extended even further, with the inclusion of apps performing additional tasks such as remote access control at drilling sites using wireless connectivity and even the ability to geo-locate workers through the mobile device.
Given the benefits, it is not surprising that this technology is growing in popularity as it continues to transform the way Health, Safety and Environment Executives approach employee health and safety by removing the uncertainty surrounding worker location validity. At a time of significant growth for the industry, it represents best practice and should become the industry standard to minimise the impact of future incidents in the international oil and gas sector.
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Written by Neil Norman, Founder of Human Recognition Systems.
Edited by Callum O'Reilly
- Pricewaterhouse Coopers research, September 2013.
- Directive 2013/30/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on safety of offshore oil and gas operations, 12 June 2013.
Read the article online at: https://www.oilfieldtechnology.com/exploration/27122013/mobile_mustering_technology_worker_safety_004/