SEMS Skills and Knowledge Part 3: What The Offshore Industry is Doing About It

Under SEMS,  offshore Operators must verify that Contractor personnel have the skills, knowledge and experience to do their jobs safely and correctly.  So far the results have been sketchy at best.    The industry doesn’t have standard skills or training requirements.  For many jobs there aren’t even standard job descriptions or paths to competency.   This month we have been looking at the challenge this faces for industry.  Today let’s look at what two industry groups are doing to solve it.

The Center for Offshore Safety (COS) represents large Operators and a few Contractors.  Its focus is on deepwater operations, but what starts in deepwater has a way of migrating onto the shelf.   For nearly a year now, a COS volunteer group has been working on guidelines for verifying offshore skills and knowledge.   I have participated as a member of that group and its recommendations still need to be approved by the COS Board, but there have been presentations at public forums that give you an idea of the direction they are headed.

The COS group supports a concept it calls the Skills and Knowledge Management System (SKMS).  In a nutshell, Contractors would need to:

  1. Figure out the critical tasks a worker performs that address specific safety needs(or, for those who are familiar with a Bow Tie Hazard Analysis, act as a barrier  to a safety or environmental hazard);
  2. Determine what training and skills workers need to perform that task;
  3. Regularly evaluate them to on those tasks; and
  4. Create a records system so Operators can verify the worker skills and knowledge.

To put it simply, what does a guy need to know to do his job safely and how do we make sure he knows it.

Again, this is a 10,000 foot view of a detailed process and the COS Board will determine what the final version looks like, but the take-away is that Contractors really need to look at a competency/evaluation process for their workers. Some Operators already require them, but look for that number to jump.


The second initiative comes from the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC).   While limited to the drilling side of offshore operations, IADC is tackling both what a good system is and what tasks should be evaluated.   On the system side, IADC has an accreditation process where it reviews a company competency program and gives it a seal of approval if it meets IADC’s criteria.   On the task side, the association has been involved for some time in what it calls the Knowledge, Skills & Abilities (KSA) Project.   This is a massive undertaking to determine critical tasks for a number of drilling positions.  The project started in 2000 and had developed competency guidelines for 12 positions.  Now the program has been stepped up to expand the number of jobs covered and to put more meat into the specific competencies.   While still a work in progress, this process will give the drilling sector new tools to standardize positions and evaluate workers from a common view.

So, two groups with two very valuable approaches to the skills and knowledge challenge.   In the meantime, Contractors still have a lot of work to do in developing systems that work for their companies and the jobs they do.  In a future post, we will look at one program that may help.

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