The construction sector may not command the status many would argue it deserves, but few would disagree that it underpins the UK economy and can be considered a barometer for the health of UK Plc.
In recent years it has had to weather more of the storm than many other sectors, with the recession being just one of many challenges and the drilling sector, often one of the first of the specialist contractors on site, feeling volatility ahead of the wave. However, despite these knocks the British Drilling Association (BDA), which is the official trade association that represents the entire spectrum of the drilling industry, has done much to address them.
Issues such as safety, quality, standards and regulations have underpinned the stance of the BDA and its recent Quality Matters Roadshow, supported by the CITB, has raised its profile and its efforts enormously. The Quality Matters Roadshows have been an important component in changing the perception of the BDA too.
The Roadshows were developed in collaboration with the CITB, which recognised the BDA’s key goals of promoting key objectives of quality in the industry; increasing skills and encouraging future entrants, the latter point being particularly important given the ever-present issue of skills shortages in construction.
The presentations, targeted specifically specifiers and consultants throughout the UK, promoted the BDA’s mission statement and goals, as well as highlighted more specific topics - such as drilling operations compliance; the importance and understanding of appropriate qualifications; obtaining quality samples; best practice; membership criteria; industry representation and the BDA Audit and CPD. A key aspect being to inform and educate attendees on the correct standards and qualifications that they should be specifying.
The emphasis of course delivery was on good practice, professionalism and quality through procurement of companies dedicated to investing in training, competency and providing a career structure for staff, which in turn would help address the skills shortage within the industry and raise overall standards in the drilling sector.
The work and effort of the BDA is well-known in the drilling and geotechnical industry and has been increasing steadily over the years. However, an industry spotlight survey carried out in 2016 by the BDA/AGS recognised that consultants, clients and specifiers were not aware of the importance of specifying quality drilling contractors to work in the industry safely and to the correct standards.
Drilling, if you like, was not being viewed with the credibility and importance – especially from a safety perspective – it rightly deserves. The roadshow addressed this specifically, although the much broader end-goal was to increase professionalism, improve the quality of projects and add value to both companies and employees, while at the same time it is hoped that this approach countered the survey’s main concern raised about the perceived lack of knowledge and adherence to the requisite standards.
A second key goal was to address the skills shortage by improving awareness of drilling as a viable career path, through emphasising the importance of upskilling and training to employers, resulting in added value to both company and individual.
The content of the roadshow itself was assembled with the help and input of the entire BDA membership, either directly through their own experiences and view of what was needed, or indirectly from the collated survey results of the previous year. With the content ready, funding from the CITB and an enthusiast team of presenters the show “hit the road”.
Much credit can be given to the many companies and organisations that signed up for the seminar upon its announcement, indicating their willingness to be a part of any initiative that promoted professionalism, safety and quality. In fact, the seminar’s reception far exceeded expectations reaching, through direct participation, some 292 participants at 35 locations UK-wide, together with three further seminars, which reached in the order a further 175 attendees.
Feedback was tremendous, with the presentation achieving a 100% improvement in awareness of the standards and expectations within the land drilling sphere. The BDA hoped to achieve a greater understanding of the industry safety and technical standards among those that procure and specify site investigations, and this was far exceeded.
Of note was the take-up of what specifiers should be expecting of a quality site investigation contractor – the importance of choosing contractors that deliver on what is promised and backed through qualifications and audit.
Specifying site investigation specialists that adhere to the correct standards and procedures would have the knock-on effect of raising the overall quality of the industry. Simply giving the drilling industry the status it rightly deserves would raise the profile and perception of the industry. As a result this would encourage more entrants to consider the drilling sector as a career opportunity and feedback appears to indicate this.
Fundamental to the BDA strategy is that it raises the standards of the land drilling sector via audit, technical seminars and the sharing of safety alerts. This presentation was a key opportunity to enhance this message, all attendees were provided with a pack, which comprised guidance to remind them of the standards and expectations discussed.
Much was discovered by the BDA from the presentations; the industry, specifiers and consultants all appear to share the same common goals of the BDA, from improving quality, safety to the application and adherence to standards, which is extremely encouraging, not only for the drilling sector, but for the wider construction sector.
The concerns about the decline in younger people entering construction is profound, not only for the future of construction but also a shared sadness of opportunities and reward they are missing out on. Support for any initiative that helps address this challenge was welcomed, with acknowledgement of the small part the roadshow was playing.
The BDA sincerely hopes it can continue to deliver these seminars in some form going forward and would suggest other sectors look seriously at using the same approach to tackle the issue that their sector may be faced with. However, one thing is clear, there is universal support for driving up standards, quality and safety – which is good for the drilling sector and the wider construction industry.
- Anne Baxter is chair of the British Drilling Association