OPITO: Study Begins on Skills and Competence Gaps in Offshore Supervisors

OIL and gas industry skills body OPITO has commissioned a new study which aims to identify the skills and competence gaps in offshore supervisors and how this impacts on the prevention of major safety incidents.

Researchers at Robert Gordon University are undertaking in-depth interviews with current, former and retired offshore installation managers (OIMs) with extensive experience of working in the UK Continental Shelf to gain their insights into the influence of managerial commitment to safety in the offshore industry.

The announcement follows last week’s comments by industry leaders at the Oil & Gas UK breakfast that the shortage of experienced staff is potentially jeopardising the North Sea’s world-leading safety standards as the sector prepares for its biggest boom for 30 years.

OPITO believes expanding the available talent pool of seasoned managers able to respond to a disaster on the scale of the Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 or the Piper Alpha tragedy is one of the biggest challenges facing the sector.

The research will look at the role of OIMs in influencing safety amongst the workforce, including their commitment to safety and how this is manifested to the workforce. It will evaluate OIMs involvement in safety activities, their delegation of responsibilities and decision making and the role of previous experience, training, personal behaviours and corporate culture in effective safety leadership. Methods by which operators encourage positive leadership behaviours amongst OIMs will also be identified.

“In his report to establish the cause of the Piper Alpha disaster, Lord Cullen pinpointed that the quality of safety management by operators is fundamental to offshore safety and no amount of detailed regulations for safety improvements could make up for deficiencies in the way that safety is managed by operators,” said Larraine Boorman, managing director of OPITO UK.

“The influence of managerial commitment to safety in the oil and gas industry has since been well documented as it plays a pivotal role in the development of a positive safety culture. A role integral to this is that of the OIM who has responsibility for the emergency command of an installation, as well as the day to day management of safety offshore. They are often the link between onshore and offshore, being a key player in the communication of safety messages from senior management to the workforce.

“Despite their important role, OIMs have received little attention as a targeted group from research in the oil and gas industry. In an increasingly complex operating environment with joint ventures, the use of contractors and a progressively more global workforce the role of the OIM is vital to the effective management of offshore safety.

“This research will offer a unique in-depth perspective into the role of the OIM and safety leadership and encourage debate around the importance of the role in creating a positive safety culture, and the ways in which this can be encouraged and supported by operators.”

The findings of the research will be available in May.

Press Release, March 12, 2013

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