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Setting Standards: Drilling spotlight

There is an ongoing need to ensure that standards are maintained and improved, and that workers comply with regulations says British Drilling Association national secretary Brian Stringer.

Under CDM 2007, clients and designers have particular responsibilities to check for workforce competence and provide pre-construction information to drilling contractors to ensure that safety is built in at the earliest stage possible. One of the biggest bones of contention among drilling contractors is that information on buried utility services is not supplied at tender stage − it is explicit under CDM that clients have a duty to search for and provide information on this and other hazards.

With regards to the requirement for a competent and safe workforce, there are a number of accreditation or registration schemes available.

Industry bodies including the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, National Specialist Contractors Council and single trade associations including the British Drilling Association (BDA) have backed the registration of all construction personnel under the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). This policy has bitten and all site trades have recognised the growth of CSCS.

Growing acceptance

From 1991 to 2005 the BDA operated a driller accreditation scheme under which drill operatives were assessed on site, awarded an accreditation competence card if meeting the standard and then reviewed annually by an on-site audit. However this scheme was only for ground investigation personnel. Since 2005 the BDA has been operating a new scheme called BDA AUDIT to include other disciplines and, in so doing, elevate it to a more widely understood and recognised national base.

“Judging who is competent in drilling, who can produce quality work and who is consistently safe has been difficult.”

Brian Stringer, British Drilling Association

The opportunity to do this occurred with the growing acceptance of government vocational awards, namely NVQs, among employers. Giving up an association’s assessment in favour of national qualifications is never an easy thing to do. Each trade discipline believes that its specialist skills need appraisal by its own experts. The attraction of NVQs for the BDA was that, for each trade NVQ, an industry occupational group was set up. It was on this basis that the BDA designed with Construction Industry Training Board (now ConstructionSkills) an NVQ in land drilling with the associated assessment facilities.

Less of a gamble

NVQ qualification for the drilling industry is not, however, sufficient by itself to prove current competence, although it is an important step in that direction. As with GCSE or higher awards, it only proves that at some time in the past, the individual was skilled and knowledgeable. Ongoing auditing is required, very much as continuous risk assessment is demanded or continuous professional development (CPD) is sought. The BDA AUDIT therefore will continue to provide on-site, 12 month auditing by its own auditors, to prove that the individual is still maintaining standards and to identify non-compliances. Proof of an individual having an NVQ, being CSCS registered and having passed a recent audit is contained on a BDA AUDIT card.

The product of drilling is, often, not completely measurable as to its quality, unlike more visible evidence of trade skills such as the correctly constructed brick wall or steel framework. Judging who is competent in drilling, who can produce quality work and who is consistently safe has been difficult. But with BDA AUDIT, NVQ Land Drilling and CSCS it becomes far less of a gamble.

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