It is no secret that the oil and gas industry is one of the most demanding work environments. Oil and gas workers face numerous hazards daily, including the risk of fires, explosions, falls, confined spaces, machine malfunctions and much more, which is why employers take every precaution to protect their personnel, assets and the environment.

One of the major ways to mitigate the risks associated with oil and gas activities is to develop a thorough recruitment process focusing on hiring “competent” workers. Hiring competent staff members with the necessary talent, skills, knowledge and desire will reduce incidents, operating costs, injuries and equipment damage - ultimately increasing the likelihood of project success.

Importance of competencies

Competencies can be defined as the measurable or observable knowledge, skills, experience and behaviors that are required in order to execute assigned tasks to successfully perform a job.

Competencies often fall into the following two categories:

  • Capability – Think of this category as the thinking or behavioral competencies. Competencies under the capability category include things such as an employee’s thought processes, problem solving skills, communication skills, literacy skills and knowledge of processes and equipment.
  • Ability – Competencies that fall under the ability category are mainly task based. These may include competencies such as operating machinery, trouble shooting, welding, truck driving, worksite management and use of oilfield technology.

It is critical for oil and gas companies to first identify the required competencies for various roles within their organizations. The competence criteria for each position should specify the desired capabilities. This will allow the leaders to filter through candidates and hire the appropriate workers.

An individual with applicable competencies for a specific role can assess, analyze and adapt to an array of situations that they have not previously experienced or received training on, greatly reducing the amount of risk on the job.

While competencies have the ability to be transferable from one work condition to another, this is not always the case. A worker may know how to operate an advanced form of machinery, but this does not necessarily mean that they have the required competencies to operate another. A worker’s level of competency must be based on the assessed competencies relevant to their role.

Furthermore, it is the company’s legal obligation to ensure that workers’ competencies comply with the industry’s regulatory requirements. Not surprisingly, managing workforce competencies in the oil and gas sector can be overwhelming. Fortunately, competency management systems (CMS) can help organizations gauge, establish and maintain competency.

Improving workplace safety

Usually web-based, CMS’ software allows companies to organize, search and manage competencies of current and/or future employees, so they are able to operate safely and in-line with regulatory guidelines.

Further assisting organizations with their talent management efforts, CMS may also include learning management systems (LMS). LMS allow companies access to learning and training resources for their employees. This enables workers to grow and strengthen their skills, experience and knowledge within the organization, thus improving safety and decreasing the probability of potential risks.

Ideally, CMS also include other beneficial tools such as personnel management, skills gap analysis, reporting and investigations, hazard assessments and competency confirmations.

CMS benefits

One of the major benefits of utilizing a CMS is having the ability to compare and contrast employees’ competency levels with the competency requirement profiles for various jobs. This allows organizations to save time, make the best use of their talent pool and efficiently allocate training resources to further develop their workers’ skillsets.

A good CMS will:

  • Improve workplace safety
  • Define employees’ roles and responsibilities
  • Identify and eliminate skills gaps
  • Improve a companies’ efficiency and operational processes
  • Reduce the potential for human error
  • Boost employee retention rates and job satisfaction
  • Improve compliance with regulatory requirements on competency
  • Increases company profits with the reduction of incidents

The oil and gas industry contains some of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Its challenging environments call for highly skilled, competent workers in all departments. Hazards and necessary competencies must be determined and prioritized to ensure the safety of employees, assets and the environment. Overlooking competence and workplace safety will ultimately lead to inevitable project delay and accidents that could have been avoided.