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Competence Assurance Gaining Momentum in O&G Industry

Chris Sutton – Partner, Clover Global Solutions, LP

An increasing number of companies in the oil and gas industry are looking to the Competence Assurance process to help them achieve some of their most fundamental goals: protecting their employees, promoting safety and ensuring quality.

Competence Assurance is a very structured practice that allows companies to assess workers’ performances against a specific set of standards. It’s used to ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. The resulting information is critical because it allows companies to manage risk more effectively as they measure the gaps between performance and the required standard for a job, and training can then be adjusted as needed.

This practice is especially valuable in the oil and gas industry, where challenges can include increasing and changing regulations, older equipment, and a significant rise in the volume of petrochemical jobs coming online.  Furthermore, Competence Assurance can play a valuable role in protecting a company’s reputation and illustrating its commitment to safety and quality.

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It may sound like a complicated process – and it can be – but following a few best practices can help a company create a solid system.

Getting Started with Competence Assurance

The Competence Assurance process begins when companies, or paid consultants, design a system that allows them to evaluate the skills and knowledge of their personnel and ensure they are complying with industry and government regulations.

A recommended course for companies is Competence Management accreditation through an industry association, which provides proof that they have implemented an effective program.  The International Association of Drilling Contractors for instance, evaluates companies’ processes for defining competencies within each position as well as assessing and maintaining employee knowledge and proficiency. 

While Competency Assessment systems will vary by company, there are some general guidelines for creating a successful program:

  • Competency should be assessed at all levels of an organization. It should be site and job specific.
  • Expect to provide more customized training in some cases.
  • Training should always include detailed safety procedures.
  • On-the-job training should be as structured as theory/process training.
  • Training should include preparation for crisis/emergency situations.
  • Understand that “competency” means more than an understanding of the concepts/practices covered in training. It also involves experience and confidence with it.
  • Be sure your trainers and assessors are trained in their roles and are credible.

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Worthwhile Investment

While designing and implementing a Competence Assurance program requires a significant investment in time and effort, it does yield dividends. By participating in this process, companies establish documented proof that their workforce is competent and meeting standards. Additionally, they will have created an inventory of company standards.

Companies can add even more value to their system, if they choose, by aligning mission and safety competencies to their business goals, in addition to focusing on safety and quality standards.

The process also can be beneficial from a human resources point of view. A Competence Assurance program helps companies make sound advancement choices with personnel.  At the same time, employees have a clear picture of what is expected of them and the competencies they will need for career advancement.

The Competence Assurance process becomes even more important as inevitable changes develop in policy, procedures, regulations, technology, equipment and business goals. As new standards are developed, companies will want to make sure their staff is prepared to handle them.  While a Competence Assurance system will not guarantee that a company will meet these objectives, it will reduce risk and make good performances considerably more likely.

Here are some questions for the readers to consider:

  • How important is competence assurance in your area or discipline?
  • What measures has your company taken to ensure employee competence? Is a program under development?

Chris Sutton has a sound foundation in the energy sector contracting from both Client and Contractor sides with specific expertise in building alliances to facilitate service capabilities. To contact Chris with any questions or comments, please send an email to Chris.S@clovergs.com.