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Driving competence in safety training

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Oilfield Technology,

As the oil and gas industry continues to face many challenges, its focus on health and safety remains as strong as ever. Even at a time when cost-efficiency is evidently at the forefront of the minds of industry leaders, there can be no compromise when it comes to the health and safety of the offshore workforce.

With this in mind, new training needs and requirements for tailored packages are on the rise, with subsequent training programmes being developed to ensure industry needs are met, whilst maintaining the highest possible level of learning and quality throughout. The industry as a whole recognises that no corners should be cut when it comes to safety training and has kept this in mind when changes in their operations have been made or new or updated legislation has been introduced.

Figure 1. Delegate participating in underwater survival training.

Falck Safety Services (Falck) is working closely with clients and industry bodies to ensure that it is supporting the efficiency aims of clients without compromising safety standards. The company’s entire workforce is committed to preparing itself and its delegates as best as it can to operate safely, and if required, in emergency situations. The company aims to ensure that delegates are aware and are capable of meeting training requirements, but are also as best prepared as they can possibly be for the environment they are operating in. Safety starts in the training environment, and demonstrating and highlighting the safety and wellbeing of all delegates is of primary importance during training. All delegates are empowered and encouraged to raise issues, challenge and stop training if concerned, and of course speak up if they feel at all unwell or anxious.

The mentality that safety training is a box ticking exercise is not accepted at Falck and the company aims to ensure its delegates are trained to the highest of standards and are confident that they have gained the skills and knowledge they need if they are ever faced with an emergency situation, a high priority for clients. This safety training is conducted by qualified and highly experienced instructors with relevant experience of working within the offshore and oil and gas industry. This is key to the way the company trains and how it works together with its delegates on a day-to-day basis.

Real life experience

There has been an abundance of scientific research on competence in terms of training and evaluation and therefore Falck understands the need for real life scenario based training. Continuous investment in advanced equipment and simulators across centres, in the UK and worldwide, provides delegates with realistic and relevant training, in a safe and controlled environment.

With partners the Fire Training Group (FTG) and International Fire Training Centre (IFTC), the company has recently introduced additional advanced fire training assets in both Aberdeen and Teesside. The aim is to ensure that the continued development of new and real life simulation of risks with regard to type, size and conditions. The company’s training rigs are designed to provide realistic yet varied scenarios to enhance the competence of the fire fighting teams in maritime and oil and gas environments. Feedback from delegates suggests that the realistic training assets on offer – in terms of scale and environmental conditions – are the centre of their learning and increase their confidence in being able to respond effectively and naturally.

People are likely to learn and absorb information when training is structured, reinforced and delivered in an environment specifically designed to provide the very best experience when practicing training techniques. Training, when delivered in this way, will instil confidence and embed the training techniques in the individuals, and if they are required to act for any reason, they will automatically recall and apply the techniques that they have learned.

Figure 2. Delegate participating in underwater survival training.

Individual ownership

At Falck, instructors talk the delegates through the training process from start to finish, taking each individual through the programme at a pace that matches their needs, whilst managing their expectations of the drills to come. Their offshore and industry specific experiences, enables them to relate to the delegates making them feel as comfortable as possible – another real element of sustained learning and competence.

The oil and gas and maritime industries are continuously driving forward safety behaviours, thinking and competencies, ensuring it is the core priority for all. Delegates understand the importance of their safety training and realise they need to emerge from the training courses they attend feeling confident and equipped with the knowledge of how to behave safely and react accordingly in an emergency.

Competence as a team

Simple day-to-day tasks such as holding the hand rail, reporting spillages, lids on cups, speaking out when something appears dangerous, taking responsibility, thinking first, all sound basic, but these are elements of a solid foundation in safety behaviours. The company has added to this by putting every employee in the UK through a formal safety qualification.

Globally, it is every employee’s responsibility to ensure safety is maintained at a high quality level and that training is standardised no matter what part of the world it is delivered. To help maintain this objective, the company has a programme of internal competence assurance for its instructors which consists of an initial assessment, followed by verification of ongoing competence (VoC). As part of instructors’ initial training and assessment, they enrol into a structured training and development programme. This is to maintain their technical and instructional competencies through confirmation of ongoing competence, as well as a requirement to maintain current up-to-date practices through continual professional development activities.

Figure 3. Delegates can experience real flames, real heat and thick black smoke at Falck’s state-of-the-art fire ground.

The training process for new instructors commences with a tailored personal development plan where they are allocated a mentor, an experienced instructor/assessor, and given the opportunity once deemed ready, to assist with training course delivery. Once deemed ready, these instructors take on course pilots independently whilst supported by their mentor, who carries out an assessment in relation to technical and instructional competence. A quality assurance check is also carried out by a lead instructor/internal verifier. Once initial assessment has been concluded the VOC process is applied on an annual basis to assure ongoing instructors’ competence is maintained. This is achieved through quality assurance checks carried out through observed training delivery.

In addition to the internal competence assurance process, the competence of all instructors is further subject to frequent and rigorous external audit as part of ongoing awarding and industry body approvals, as well as by our clients in order to comply with local and global standards.

Safety from a young age

Catching the workforce of tomorrow at an early age is a great way of providing the foundations of a safety culture. Triggering safety awareness in early life is crucial in adopting good safety practices. If encouragement is given to youngsters by their teachers, parents and other family members, safety begins to become second nature to them and not an afterthought.

With this in mind, Falck began delivering safety workshops in local primary schools, partnering with oil and gas clients and others to deliver safety initiatives for school pupils in Aberdeen and Teesside to help reinforce this way of thinking. The purpose of these initiatives is to encourage safe thinking and the safety behaviours of pupils, sharing essential yet simplistic tools and techniques to help build on safety awareness and increase confidence. Safety can often become a taboo topic at school, especially amongst peers, however this can be improved by taking time out to improve the understanding of safety, boost the assertiveness of youths and reinforce safety’s role in the work place for later in life. It is obvious that learning the basics of safety awareness from a young age will help provide a great foundation for our offshore workers of the future.

Changes in legislation

With regular updates and new regulations coming into force each year, as a training provider the company has to be able to react quickly to ensure its training courses fit with the appropriate standards. Organisations and industry bodies such as OPITO and Step Change in Safety are actively driving safety to the forefront, and as a training provider, the company must ensure it actively prepares to support the development and subsequent implementation of any new requirements.

Driving performance

Training today is more comprehensive than it has ever been before and this has helped the delegate to retain a deeper knowledge, understanding and competence of the subject. An expertly trained workforce helps improve confidence, and most importantly, is likely to drive performance. This can only be a good thing for the industry. Falck Safety strives to deliver the most appropriate training techniques and facilities and trust in a safer world.

Edited from an article written by Colin Leyden, Falck Safety Services UK.

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