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New British Drilling Association audit to target competancy: Peter Redford

The British Drilling Association’s auditing scheme will be re-launched in June to address past issues and help maintain operator competency

The British Drilling Association (BDA) Audit Scheme was launched in 2005 to assess competence of operatives, primarily around safe operation of drilling plant and knowledge of legislation, with a limited assessment of the ability to drill to specification.

By 2014, the number of audited drillers had reached 140, representing about half the industry. However, the auditing scheme still had its critics, who pointed out that it did not test in-depth technical knowledge and that no-one failed. (It should be noted that the audit highlights non-conformance, gives required corrective actions and close-out periods and there were plenty of these. The ultimate sanction was to withdraw candidates’ BDA Audit card.)

Also, sections of the audit focused on plant being used at the time. Not only was plant largely out of the control of some ‘employee’ drillers, but concerns were growing that different drillers employed by a company were being audited on the “good” rig.

So, toward the end of 2014, the BDA decided to carry out a major review of the scheme. This review was completed in earlier this year, coinciding with a review of the National Occupational Standards (NOS) behind the NVQ in Land Drilling.

The new auditing process underwent field trials in the spring and should go live in June. Every question has been tested and reviewed against the revised NOS. The way in which non-conformance is dealt with has also been addressed.

Non-conformance is now split into minor, major and safety critical categories. Minor non-conformances have to be resolved within 28 days and major ones within seven days. Safety critical issues will either be resolved immediately, while operations are suspended or the audit stopped, and the Health and Safety Executive may be informed. Evidence of the “close-out” of any non-conformance will be logged rigorously.

One of the biggest changes is that the audit is now fully digitised, using tablet computers on site. Not only will this make the process smoother and faster but importantly, using this digital format will make updating far easier.

In the future, the audit may move away from reviewing competence purely against the requirements of the NVQ, in an effort to improve the level of technical competence tested. BDA is also exploring independent certification of the auditing process.

Ever since its formation in 1976, one of the guiding principles of the BDA has been to raise and maintain levels of competence within the drilling sector. The changes to the auditing process should ensure that this goal is maintained, and help steer the drilling sector in the ever increasing drive for competence across the construction industry.

Details of the changes will be presented at Geotechnica 2015, which is being held at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre, Royal Leamington Spa on 8 and 9 July.

Peter Redford is a director of BDA and chaired the auditing process review working group

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