There is increasing global emphasis within the offshore oil and gas industry on the importance of using competent personnel - something that is continuing despite economic swings in the last few years. Experience counts. Contractors are called upon by clients, regulators and others to demonstrate that the individuals working for them, particularly in safety-critical roles, are competent.
The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) has taken a proactive role over the years in encouraging competence assessment and training within its 750+ member organisations. This role continues with competence workshops for members taking place in Aberdeen and Singapore; the publication of an information note on competence validity periods; and a call for assistance in the preparation of promotional material.
"A new item in the work programme for our Competence & Training (C& T) core committee is to develop promotional material encouraging competence and training amongst offshore personnel," explains IMCA's Chief Executive Hugh Williams. "Members are considering a number of options including a possible DVD addressing competence, ideas for posters and pocket cards similar to those already available for safety issues. Anyone, be they a member or a non-member, who would like to assist with this important element of our work should contact Nick[dot]Hough[at]imca-int[dot]com.
"Competence assessment and training are important to our members; and we consistently drive home strong messages on these fronts. Working through and in consultation with members, we have developed an extensive framework of competence assessment guidance that members can use to establish or enhance their own in-house schemes, with recognised industry criteria and templates for assessment and record keeping. Our framework includes a substantial amount of documentation - set out in a straightforward manner for over 50 positions, with additional guidance for freelance personnel and on assessor training with a variety of logbooks and competence records also available. The new promotional material will be just one more arrow in the 'competence quiver'."
Competence validity periods
The validity period for competence assurance assessments has been revisited by IMCA's C& T Committee following feedback from member companies who now have established in-house competence assurance and assessment schemes in place. When the IMCA Competence Assurance & Assessment guidelines were originally created (in 1999), there was a view that an appropriate revalidation period could be three years.
However now that in-house competence schemes, based on the IMCA guidelines are in place and established, it is recognised that a revalidation period of no more than five years would be more realistic, and IMCA has recently issued an information note to that effect. It is, however, up to individual companies to develop their own criteria for competence validity and ongoing processes within their in-houses schemes.
"It is important to note that the validity of competence should depend on a number of issues," says Hugh Williams. "For example, whether the person was carrying out the same job during the time period; technological developments; appraisal arrangements; and whether the record of competence was being regularly maintained.
"It was agreed that all personnel in company in-house competence assurance and assessment schemes should be encouraged to keep evidence of competence as current as possible, so that the question on ongoing competence would not be seen as an issue."
Competence workshops in Aberdeen and Singapore
IMCA encourages member involvement with competence in other ways. A one-day members' competence workshop with the theme 'Working Together' is being held on Tuesday 22 March at the Hilton Aberdeen Treetops Hotel. Aimed at contractors, C& T representatives, offshore personnel and personnel agencies, the workshop will be a mixture of short presentations and round table discussion sessions.
It will include a presentation on competence assurance schemes, what needs to be in place to defend a prosecution following an accident by Catherine Bridon of McGrigors LLP; a personnel agency's view of competence for freelance personnel by Jeff Mountain of ETPM; the transferability of competence by David Moxey, Northern Marine Management; and the use of technology - both by the use of simulators in competence assessment (Norman Simpson, Subsea 7) and the use of e-portfolios to administer competence (Gavin Smith, Subsea 7). There will also be two presentations (from Mike Hawley of Total and Steve Crowe of Odfjell Drilling) on the approach other parts of the industry use for competence assurance. There will also be a number of discussion sessions which will tackle issues arising from the presentations.
A second competence workshop for members will be held in Singapore on 11 May. Once again it will address key issues on the implementation of competence schemes based on the IMCA framework (Ann Keenan, Technip); on a client's perspective (Jim Fortnum, BP); include case studies; and address the use of simulators in training and competence assessment (Robin Kirkpatrick, EMAS); the Australian CSTP and supervisor competency scheme (Alf Standen, Corporate Incident Management Associates, on behalf of APPEA).
Assessment, verification and administration will be the subject of two presentations - roles and responsibilities (John Rossier, DOF Subsea) and how to develop a suitable approach for your organisation (Robert Raynor, IDESS). Once again, round tables and discussion/feedback sessions will play a key role, not least of all because they continue to help to formulate IMCA's ongoing competence work programme.