Oil and gas

Training, drills and the unpredictable reality

Managing safety in a changing time

“You have to train in order to become good” is a saying in various contexts around the world. Training is a substantial part of everyday work life in some industries, especially in high risk industries. In the oil and gas industry, for example, the importance of training cannot be understated when it comes to managing risk and to ensure a high safety level, both onshore and offshore.

While training in general is considered to be beneficial, training framework, methods and other factors vary in terms of its effectiveness. A few years ago it was published empirical research on how civilian firefighter training drills affected the firefighters’ stress levels. One group of firefighters was repeatedly trained in the same live firefighting scenario, while another group was trained in firefighting scenarios that varied. The group which had the repeated scenarios had stress reduction for the type of scenario they had been repeatedly exposed to, but not for slightly different fire scenarios. The article concluded that repeated exposure to the same scenario as the final part of training had limited practical value for stress reduction. In other words, training on the same scenario might have limited value for managing potentially unpredictable situations in real life.

A lot of resources are invested in training of offshore crew. There are good examples out there of how crisis scenarios have been avoided because crew has trained on managing the situation. However, training drills on offshore platforms are often characterized by routine more than variation. Emergency drills, for example mustering to lifeboats, are often planned to a specific time and day weekly or biweekly. Quite often the crew on board knows that a drill is planned, which cannot be argued to be the case in a real situation. In several countries there are also prescriptive requirements on what to train, but there is limited guidance on how to train. There are improvement areas within training in oil and gas. Recently, International Association of Oil and Gas producers (IOGP) published their latest report on the topic of Crew Resource Management for well operations teams: “Guidelines for implementing Well Operations Crew Resource Management training” (report 502). Crew Resource Management (CRM) is a framework for training teams, with focus on “non-technical skills”. A good approach to training is combining both technical and non-technical skills, and base training content on risk assessments, and not limiting it to general company and regulatory requirements. Last but not least, by varying the training scenarios should be even more robust to manage the unexpected.