Life Lessons: Feeling the pulse

Dr Margaret Crichton, managing director of People Factor Consultants (PFC), is a leader in the development of human potential, and specialises in non-technical skills essential for workplace safety.

COMMENT, Industry Trends

I was always interested in psychology and, while working in the School of Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, I had the opportunity to work on a project examining decision-making by nuclear on-scene emergency response personnel. This led to me complete a PhD in decision-making under stress on nuclear power installations, which then expanded to include other high-hazard environments, such as offshore oil and gas production and drilling, police, fire, aviation, medicine and ministerial departments.

All industries benefit from insight into non-technical skills and my research has shown that they are vital for safe and effective performance, particularly in high-hazard environments.

People are the heart of any business, and a successful 21st century business should know and understand its workforce, identifying what makes them tick and putting the support systems in place to help them meet their potential.

Understanding how an individual performs tasks in the workplace, I can identify the skills required by individuals and teams, highlighting where training and coaching can enhance these skills. From a safety perspective, assessing competency and investigating incidents and near misses to capture the human factor aspects, can give a much fuller understanding of what has contributed to the event.

In 2015, we launched a portable version of our high fidelity power distribution simulator. It gives candidates as close to an offshore experience as possible, without the risk. It also plays a fundamental role in broadening the scope of safety training that PFC can deliver to the Middle East, and globally.

The simulator recreates a realistic, recognisable working environment for our delegates, allowing us to assess every aspect of both technical and non-technical skills, providing instant feedback that can be practised and improved in this safe environment.

At a time when the industry is under immense pressure, so too is its workforce, and we strive to ensure companies worldwide remember how important and essential technical and non-technical training is for safe working environments.

While PFC provides technical training, my focus is on the complementary non-technical skills that individuals need to be able to perform their jobs safely – the social, cognitive and personal skills that complement technical knowledge. The skills are represented by effective teamwork and good communication, which is led by the ability to assess situations, make decisions and demonstrate leadership, and supported by a work/life balance to lessen the effects of stress and fatigue. This is a measurable outcome that has been assessed in a number of industries.

This understanding is even more important during a downturn. The global oil and gas industry currently faces an uncertain economic climate, and times like these reiterate the importance of understanding your workforce, knowing what makes them tick, feeling the pulse.

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