What Do You Look for in a Training Provider?

When planning on engaging in safety training for the Oil & Gas industry, what factors do you consider?  Is it Location, Facilities, Quality, Experience, Price, Accreditation, or Safety? On their own, each of these factors has great merit, but when it comes to training they are, in fact, closely linked together. If we examine them in turn we will find that it is hard to have one without the other, especially those related in the Oil & Gas industry where safety is a very important aspect.

Safety should always be of paramount concern when selecting training, it may be cliché but you must always ensure there is the highest possible level of safety when participating in training. Depending on the type of training you are engaging in there will always be some level of risk, after all, you are being trained to work in hazardous environments and survive dangerous situations. While participating in training these dangers are much less than they may be in a real situation, and can be mitigated, but they do exist.

The minimization and control of dangerous situations during training goes hand in hand with quality which covers many aspects of training, not only the quality of the courseware itself, but also that of the equipment, facilities and staff involved. The equipment should be well maintained and regularly serviced and documentation of this maintenance needs to be kept. All facilities used should be purpose built, correctly constructed and do the job it was designed to do while providing both safety and an atmosphere that is conductive to learning. All staff involved in delivering the training should have the appropriate levels of experience and all instructors should be certified. All staff, not just instructors, should be encouraged to not only maintain their skills, but to update and improve them through staff development plans so that they can offer the latest and most up to date training to their students.

It is also vitally important that a training provider have a readily available and up-to-date quality management system and emergency response plan. The quality management system should ensure that there is a robust and highly detailed set of documented procedures that link together all aspects of training and management. These should include: formally documented procedures to ensure the safety of all training exercises, all required processes and checklists for trainee assessment, administrative requirements, record keeping, HSE plans, maintenance plans & records, emergency response plans, employee training matrix, organization charts, work instructions, drills, etc.  All aspects of the quality management system must work together to support the entire operation of the organization.

The emergency response plan, as a very important part of the quality management system, should contain solid, well documented and practiced procedures that training staff must undertake during emergencies such as natural disasters, accidents and incidents to help prevent further problems while maintaining a controlled environment.  Every training provider must be in a position to take full responsibility for both its staff and the trainees and must have a comprehensive emergency response plan in place to accomplish this.

How can one be sure a training provider has the appropriate quality management system and emergency response plans in place? Through comprehensive auditing.

Quality training providers are regularly audited by their customers to ensure that they meet both the client’s own internal, and internationally accepted, safety standards, that all training equipment is safe and well maintained and that the staff conducting the training are competent. This auditing however can, and often does, become burdensome for both the training provider and client, and this is where accreditation helps. International organizations such as OPITO (Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organization) certify and approve centers whose facilities, equipment, staff and courses meet its rigorous requirements. Certification from OPITO must be maintained through strict adherence to the OPITO guidelines, constant development of staff, maintenance of equipment and facilities and the successful passing of annual OPITO audit. Knowing that a training provider is OPITO approved takes a huge weight off the shoulders of training participants and their employers as they can be assured that the training provider is regularly audited by, and operating within, an international organization whose standards are set by the oil & gas industry.

To maintain all of this; safety, quality courseware, qualified instructors, well maintained equipment and facilities and international accreditation, is not a cheap endeavor and therefore must be priced accordingly. If the price is insufficient to maintain these elements then one or more of them will degrade or be done away with all together thus risking the quality, safety and recognition of the training.

Many low quality, low cost training providers claim to provide training which is “In accordance with OPITO standards”. This is NOT OPITO approved, and there is no guarantee that they are qualified to provide such training as no audits have been conducted by OPITO or any other certification body. This is the same as stating that, “Our quality management system is in accordance to ISO 9001 but not ISO approved.” Without approval the only way to ensure that this statement is true is to be familiar with the standards and to conduct a thorough audit yourself. In the end the statement is nothing but smoke and mirrors, a marketing ploy used to try to trick those unfamiliar with safety training and international standards into accepting sub standard training.

Most of these training providers do not have their own training facilities or equipment, often relying on rented public facilities to conduct their training, which is in direct violation of OPITO standards. Without a fixed training center, a HUET simulator, TEMPSC, in-house instructors, assistant instructors, divers, paramedics, maintenance team, QA & HSE team, quality control system and emergency response procedures these companies are in no way acting in accordance with OPITO standards and are, in fact, in violation of them.

Safety training should not only be about meeting requirements or regulations, or about filling the need of a training matrix, but should be more about improving the skills, attitude towards safety and chances of survival of those being trained. By the end of any training, participants must have learned valuable skills and be able to apply those skills, not only in cases of an emergency, but in their day to day working and personal lives.

In Conclusion, when you are planning on engaging in safety training for the Oil & Gas industry, it is highly recommended to factor all the elements such as Location, Facilities, Quality, Experience, Price, Accreditation and Safety in to your decision. Remember that, often, lower price means higher risk and lower safety, no international accreditation, lack of appropriate equipment and instructors who often have less knowledge and experience than those being instructed. Always be sure to ask for international approval or conduct a thorough safety audit before you engage in any training.

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OPITO is a non-profit organization owned by the Oil & Gas operators of the world to assure the highest quality standardization for Oil & Gas safety training approved worldwide. They freely offer copies of their standards and these can be downloaded for directly from the OPITO website. For further information on OPITO please visitwww.opito.com/international.

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