MIST and Bosiet for oil and gas, GWO for wind and Triple Bar for nuclear… sector-specific survival and safety training, as well as behavioural safety training schemes, are mandatory for working in certain sectors. But, and it’s a big but, assuring base technical competence on safety-critical sites has not been, until now.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines the importance of competence as:

‘[…] the ability to undertake responsibilities and perform activities to a recognised standard on a regular basis. It is a combination of skills, experience and knowledge. The inadequate management of competence has not only contributed to disasters such as BP Texas City, but also to fatalities, personal injury and ill health.”

One of the biggest drivers behind Connected Competence is to help avoid workplace incidents across the engineering construction industries. By no means are we saying it’s a cure-all solution, but gaining Connected Competence contributes to a safer working environment for everyone.

Disasters that could have been avoided

The very sad truth is that incidents such as Piper Alpha, Bacton Gas Terminal and Deep Water Horizon were all avoidable. Serious managerial failures were attributed to all of these events, including the lack of diligence around the recognition and assurance of competence standards.

A devastating 167 men were killed on Piper Alpha in 1988 due to what Lord Cullen judged as ‘inadequate maintenance and safety procedures’. A string of mistakes created the perfect storm for the world’s most severe and fatal oil rig accident, including:

  • the platform kept producing oil and gas during a series of construction, maintenance and upgrade works.
  • an incomplete shift handover failed to inform workers that a key piece of pipework had been sealed with a temporary cover and no safety valve, and should not be used under any circumstances. 
  • lack of direction and knowledge as to when to shut down production to limit the consequences.

Ten years later, oil and gas saw another major incident at Bacton Gas Terminal in 2008. Due to the fortunate timing of the explosion, this one wasn’t fatal. But once again, it could have been avoided. The investigation found that the leak of highly flammable hydrocarbon liquid was caused by the failure of a corroded metal separator vessel, which led to an explosion in a concrete water tank.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector Steve Johnson, said:

“Our investigation found key components had been failing for some years and the company knew this, yet there had been no appreciation of the potential for an incident such as this. […] In particular, there had been no attempt to assess the risk that arose from condensate entering the water treatment plant despite the fact that the plant was not designed to handle highly flammable liquids like condensate.”

Deep Water Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico was also added to the list of oil disasters in 2010 and branded the worst oil spill in the history of marine oil drilling operations. The surge of natural gas that blew through an inadequate concrete seal on an oil well killed 11 men and injured 17, and released a catastrophic 4 million barrels of oil into the surrounding waters.

Proactive proof of technical competence helps avoid disasters

The harsh truth is that when competencies are not assured on a regular basis, one of two things may happen – people can become complacent or they may not maintain the level of competence required to operate safely. Either of these situations can lead to error… but there should be no room for error when working in such hazardous environments because as we’ve seen, the consequences can be devastating.

Connected Competence is a proactive way of assuring base technical competence on a regular basis so that everyone is working to the same recognised base standard needed for today’s working environments. By every site-based worker in the industry assuring their ongoing base technical skills, we can take great strides towards a safer industry for everyone. 

In the grand scheme of things, Connected Competence requires very little of your time and effort… but provides you and your co-workers with a safer environment to work in. 

Book your test today and help us work towards a safer industry for all. If you have any questions, read our earlier blog: Connected Competence – Your Questions Answered.

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