Crew Resource Management for wells

2 January 2015

drilling crew

The offshore sector continues to define and make significant operational improvements to incorporate lessons learned from the Macondo blowout.

One area is improved hardware – for example the various emergency wellhead connectors that were developed, constructed and are now deployed globally, with the associated logistics support to deliver them to the location of a major well incident. Another area is regulatory improvements, for example the EU Offshore Directive and the linked national regulations that are required by mid-2015. (In UK HSE has recently provided additional information to industry about the draft Offshore Safety Case Regulations 2015 and some remaining legal issues to be resolved – and Offshore Group has responded to HSE with additional comments).

A third very important area is the skills required by those involved in well operations. Macondo provided evidence of some technical deficiencies in the various training standards but, more importantly, of the clear need for ‘soft skills’ training and assessment of how well these are deployed, to improve the ways that teams work together. Key publications are now available to help organisations put such training in place. Collectively it’s known as ‘crew resource management’ (CRM), developed initially for the aviation sector, but now recognised as a vital tool also applicable for hospitals and in the nuclear, marine and process sectors. 

The broad competences that CRM targets are:

  • Situational awareness

  • Decision making & problem solving

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork

  • Communications

  • Managing stress/fatigue.

The balance needed between these will vary with specific work tasks and situations, so CRM must be customised and relevant for the trainees. (My own first experience was as the lone safety professional on an in-house CRM course for helicopter pilots. I attended to increase my contractor auditing skills, and certainly learned a great deal.)

Some recent key publications about CRM for the offshore sector are:

  • Energy Institute Guidance on CRM and non-technical skills training, July 2014 (free to download, but you need to register first). This comprehensive guide summarises what CRM involves, some case studies of why it’s needed, what a CRM course should cover and how to assess the required competences. It includes Appendices detailing example course syllabuses, including a 2-day course for Wells Operations taken from IOGP report 501. Table 3 provides helpful examples of good/poor behaviours in each CRM category, and suggestions of how these can be assessed in work situations.

  • IOGP Guidelines for implementing Well Operations CRM training, report no. 502, December 2014 – free to download. This links to the EI Guidance, but is specific to wells personnel. It covers the same required competences, though in a slightly different sequence, and lists key learning objectives for each. Table 1 (page 20) lists the personnel who require this training and associated competence assessments – the priority is for rig-based personnel, but office-based roles are included too (there’s no mention of OSH advisors in either category – but I suggest all OSH professionals who cover well operations need this training, and some of the competences).

Taken together, these reports provide a sound basis for the upstream sector (on- and offshore) to implement highly relevant CRM training for all key wells personnel. They also provide a wealth of references for further reading for those not already familiar with CRM or wells management – including, for example, IOGP Report no. 476 that covers required enhancements to well control training, examination and certification. 

Drilling sector OSH advisors have a key role in ensuring that CRM training and associated skills assessments in work situations actually happen. If you are in this category, I suggest you include it in your CPD plan for 2015 – and perhaps start by experiencing a CRM course for yourself if you’ve not already done so.

Ian Waldram