The Oil Field Recovery: Five Tips For Preparing For The Upturn

The headline in an energy sector newsletter begins, “What’s next now that the oil bust is over?”

We’ve heard that song before.   But the signs are encouraging.  Brent Crude has hung in above $60 a barrel for more than two weeks. OPEC predicts demand for oil picking up next year.  Maybe work in the oilfield is ready to pick up after all.   But will the industry be ready?

A lot of experienced people left the oilfield in the last three years and, chances are, they are not coming back, so we will need to hire  and train a new workforce.  We’ll be putting equipment back to back into the field after a long down time.  We can’t avoid it, but we can recognize the risks and address them.  Here are a few suggestions for safety departments:

Safety Plan Review:  There have been some changes to regulations since the downturn and some new customer requirements.   Many operators are looking for their contractors to have safety management systems in place, similar to the offshore SEMS rule.  In most cases, I find companies already have the safety management elements; they just need to be revised and reformatted, but it can mean the difference between getting and losing a job.

Job Descriptions and Skills Assessments:   This may be a head-scratcher, but if you don’t have accurate job descriptions, how do you know what new hires will do?  And if you don’t have a methodology to assess workers on the particular skills that make up the job descriptions, how do you know whether you have the right people doing the jobs?   Sure, every company has a number of in-house subject matter experts who know every job inside and out. However, those people are worth their weight in gold and they won’t have time to look over every new employee’s shoulder.

Operating Procedures:   Too many companies rely on head knowledge, not written knowledge.  Unfortunately, a lot of the experienced workers are gone.  The ones who are left will be so busy in an up market that they won’t have much time to share what they know.  Now is the time to make sure procedures are correct and can guide a new employee in the job.

Crew Training: Are you prioritizing what your crews need to know to be safe and effective?  It is a lot easier to figure that out now, before business picks up.

Supervisor Training:  Regular readers of this blog know we believe strongly in the value of training supervisors.  When work picks up, supervisors will have the most influence on training green hands.  They will need to understand their role in ensuring that work is done safely and effectively.   This is the time to give your supervisors the tools they need to do their jobs.

Need help gearing up for the oil and gas comeback?   Lifeline Strategies can help with safety management, competency programs, operating procedures and training.  Contact us at or call (985) 789-0577 to see how we can assist you.

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