HSE&T Corner: Quantitative method can guide competency programs, determine value of assessment

Posted on 10 July 2014

By Joanne Liou, Associate Editor

The value of information approach is based on statistics and quantifies the value of having competent people, as well as assessing competency, PetroSkills’ Ford Brett explained at IADC World Drilling 2014 in June in Vienna.

The value of information approach is based on statistics and quantifies the value of having competent people, as well as assessing competency, PetroSkills’ Ford Brett explained at IADC World Drilling 2014 in June in Vienna.

When something goes wrong, the culprit is oftentimes the human factor – not having the right person with the right skills in the right place at the right time. “If you look at what causes things to go wrong, it always comes back to someone could have done something,” Ford Brett, CEO of PetroSkills, said.

With operations becoming more complex, technologies are being developed to make performance less dependent on human capabilities. “You’re making technology that can do the right thing whether people do it or not – technology that gets around people’s competencies,” Mr Brett explained in a presentation at IADC World Drilling 2014 in Vienna in June. However, he believes that these sophisticated technologies – designed to take human factors out – actually requires higher human competence to operate safely. “This creates a paradox where, in fact, it requires people with more capabilities when something goes wrong.”

As the global rig fleet expands, the industry is in need of significantly more competent people. “Technology means more capable people are needed, so head count is a limiting factor,” Mr Brett explained. Moreover, rather than head count, Mr Brett said he is more interested in head content. “A person in the industry is not the same thing as a capable person in our industry.” To understand the value of competency, Mr Brett suggested that the industry look at an approach called value of information. It uses science to quantify, audit and answer the simple question: How do I know if my people are competent?

The value of information approach can ensure that the resources for assessment is money well spent. “In industry, we generally under-assess,” Mr Brett said. “There is value in assessing competency.”

Value of information is not a new concept; it’s been used in the industry since the early 1990s to design exploration projects and has been used in medicine to determine the value of diagnostic tests. In exploration, “the question about how much money do we spend on seismic, how much money for field work, how much money do we spend looking at offset and analog reservoirs, all relates to value of information,” Mr Brett stated.

In drilling, it can be used to quantify investments in competency assessment. With stuck pipe, for example, the cost of incompetence can be estimated at approximately $100,000 if the pipe gets stuck. But it might cost only $500 to complete a competency assessment. In other words, how much money should be spent assuring competency depends, in part, on the cost of incompetence. “If the cost of incompetence is very low, I don’t need to spend so much time assuring it,” Mr Brett explained.

The approach is not perfect, he acknowledged, but it allows the industry to value imperfect information. To take into account parameter estimates, such as the prior estimate of an individual’s competency and the accuracy of the proposed assessment, the Simple Sensitivity Analysis can be used to determine if an assessment is worth its cost. The analysis is based on the ratio of failure cost to assessment cost, as well as the prior competency that would be needed to not do an assessment. The analysis focuses on threshold values rather than if a specific parameter value is correct.

Besides having to deal with imperfect information, another issue is the reliability of the assessment. Different assessments have different costs based on whether the assessment is focused on a knowledge, skill or behavior. “This approach lets you pick the right (type of assessment) for the right job,” Mr Brett said. “We can understand (an assessment) is worth it by looking at the probability of incompetence based on historic activities and what it cost us in the past, and then value these different assessments.”

For more information about this approach, please see SPE 166308, “Value of Competency and Value of Competency Assessment.”

More articles on HSE and training can be accessed through DC’s Drilling It Safely microsite. Click here to visit the site.

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