The oil capital of the world, Houston is a key destination for a huge number of organisations within our industry.
Production from federal waters in the US Gulf of Mexico reached an all-time high in 2010 and with upwards of 55,000 people employed in exploration and production activities in the region, it represents a significant area of interest in terms of international focus and growth.
Our research to date, however, has shown the use of a structured standards-based framework stretching from basic offshore safety through a range of specialist response roles has not been applied in the way it has in many other exploration and production areas of the world.
This model was created in the UKCS led by employers, supported by OPITO, and has shown to be very effective in the management of offshore emergency response competence.
While the industry is attempting to build collective forums to address a wide range of issues relating to safer working practices, a fragmented approach to preparing and managing for emergency response exists.
For the large part, this type of training is only being undertaken by transient US workers moving into other regions where OPITO training is either mandatory or a basic requirement.
The question we have to ask is where does this leave the vast majority of workers who do not fall into this category?
I’ve said it countless times before . . . it should be a fundamental right in any workplace to know and understand the basic safety and emergency response skills of your fellow workers. This is a drum that it is important we continue to bang and we will do just that.
What is encouraging is that we are now seeing a strong desire across the industry in the US to proactively address the challenges around offshore safety and organisations are very receptive to using the lessons learned from other, often more mature, oil and gas hubs around the world – including the North Sea.
There are many examples of well-intended and commendable company specific efforts to improve safety training for offshore workers in the region. What is missing is the joint approach of a common standard for improving safety across the energy sector.
We announced last month that OPITO was broadening its reach with a move into the US Gulf of Mexico. Our presence there will see the creation of an industry/employer forum and an approved training provider advisory group so we can engage more fully with the American industry, better understand the regional issues and work collectively to address them.
This type of forum is already making significant impacts in Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, providing the vehicle for debating standards-related issues and influencing the amendment of existing standards to more accurately reflect the unique operating and training environments in each global region.
In an industry as international as ours, where companies and individuals operate in a multitude of locations and with a diverse range of projects, partnerships and nationalities, this is the only way to ensure the safety message remains consistent – no matter who you are, who you work for, where you are based or what job role you are undertaking.
David Doig is chief executive of OPITO