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Jon Christie: The challenge of health and safety in drilling

It’s surprising that in 2018, when you mention health and safety to some you’ll still be greeted with a roll of the eyes and a mumbled comment about cost, inconvenience and red tape.

jon christie pr image

jon christie pr image

Jon Christie is the Health and Safety Committee chair for the British Drilling Association

The thing is, while the need to improve health and safety is now widely accepted, there is always a risk of complacency and a feeling that we are already at some sort of peak with little or no room to improve. However, the fact is, with statistical support, we are far from perfect and the only true end-goal would be zero instances.

The British Drilling Association’s (BDA) Health and Safety Committee (HSC) faces this challenge all the time, and while it works hard to raise standards of health and safety within the drilling industry, it’s never an easy job. The HSC has had to forge active relationships with regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Office of Rail and Road, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and police, among others, just to form a network of knowledge sharing. And of course, there’s having to review and help produce British, European and international standards.

Good health and safety doesn’t just happen by itself – it starts with people sacrificing their available time, as well as the goodwill of their respective companies, to allow the research, investigation and ultimately produce the standards and guidelines that makes all our working safer.

Communication is always a challenge; creating effective two-way communication as the industry is so diverse the resources available are not always equal. Organisation like the BDA strives to bridge that gap by encouraging the industry to be open with its issues, incidents and understanding as well as create an effective facility for learning, provide a forum to discuss; change and its implications, highlight incidents and the methods of prevention, promote standards and their effective application and share innovation and experiences. Of course, this is only as effective as its contributors. It is no longer acceptable for anyone to see health and safety improvements as a commercial advantage or to keep the circumstances of an incident “in-house” and to knowingly allow anyone to perform short of industry standards – at the very least the industry must ensure that its colleagues go home, at least, in the same condition that they started their shift.

Health is our future – there were 137 deaths through injury last year according to HSE figures, which is a remarkable decline of 85% since 1974. However, mental health and wellbeing is also of critical importance; 37% of all health-related illness – HSE figures suggest there were 500,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, anxiety and depression last year and data released by the Office for National Statistics last year shows that nearly 75% of all suicides in the UK were male. In fact, for too long health has played second fiddle to safety, and while the BDA is responding the industry is playing catch-up.

The drilling industry is only at the beginning of this journey and with “zero instances” the goal it may be never ending, but now is the time everyone put health, safety and even well-being at the fore of all our efforts and instead of the rolling eyes, we all nod in approval.

  • Jon Christie is the Health and Safety Committee chair for the British Drilling Association



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