OPITO’s David Doig addresses the impact of $60 oil on workplace safety.
The repercussions of the sharp decline in oil price are being felt globally. In this new era of cost-cutting and increasing efficiency, the industry must ensure it keeps its people safe and continues to develop the skills of the workforce.
In times of cost reduction, all too often, and wrongly, training and development budgets are prime targets for cuts. Such sweeping cuts in these areas, however, are often borne from ignorance of the real harm they cause and only serve as short term measures. History shows that the true cost of cuts in training come back to haunt us later in the form of skills shortages and wage inflation.
Hazards and risks remain the same regardless of the price of oil and a lower barrel of oil equivalent (BOE) must not mean that they are managed differently.
A robust people strategy must be applied in a down turn to keep workforces safe and ensure operators are well placed with a competitive edge to take advantage of the upturn when it arrives, as it will undoubtedly, given the history of the industry.
It is the smart organisations that realise that, in times of cost cutting and a drive for increased efficiency, it is our people who are the key to our success. It is a highly skilled, safe and motivated workforce that will ensure the industry remains competitive. Even in the current climate, production operations will continue as will the need for maintenance. If we take a cynical view that maintenance activities will be reduced, then the need to ensure the workforce is trained and competent becomes greater.
Doing more with less will be the way of the future for some years, and by taking a standards-based approach to training companies can ensure the workforce has the right skills, operates safely and is therefore much more efficient.
As an example, OPITO’s model uses standards that focus on the critical needs in the workplace, it’s not “just a bit of training” – it’s a structured approach to managing risk and developing skills, be that safety or operational task critical.
Taking a structured approach to training and development of the workforce shows that by applying a well-organised training regime costs can be reduced.
The real cost of safety, of course, doesn’t show up on the balance sheet. When safety systems fail, the real and long lasting human cost cannot be quantified simply in monetary terms. The impact on people and their families goes beyond the incident, investigation and conclusion.
Cost correction is critical, but cost cutting without a long term strategy is short term thinking. Smart organisations need to think differently and see opportunity in all forms of change. These employers will remain committed and become inventive and entrepreneurial in their thinking. Innovation in training, through greater use of technology, will be key in the future. With effective leadership, teamwork and innovation, employers will implement strategies that drive efficiency and create opportunity without impacting on safety.
Smart employers know that a safe, productive, motivated workforce will drive competitiveness and just as the BOE price has declined it will inevitably rise and a dynamic workforce will be vital to take advantage of opportunities. Smart employees know they only want to work for employers that genuinely want to keep them safe and continually invest in their skills and safety.
This year’s OPITO Safety and Competence Conference (OSCC), held on 3 November in Abu Dhabi, is the only global annual event focused on safety and competence and is now in its sixth year.