March 2014

Drilling advances

But, popcorn is extra

Jim Redden / Contributing Editor


Fresh off the farm and in my first college journalism class, I sat for what seemed like an eternity in an auditorium, among a sizeable group of equally fidgety students. Suddenly, the door flung open and, across the stage, rushed a screaming lady, pursued by an angry guy obviously intent on doing her harm. After a brief skirmish, the two resumed the chase out the door.

As we sat there bug-eyed, the professor, a grandfatherly chap with the typical white beard and scholarly air, strolled in and told us to take one of the notepads that had been distributed throughout the auditorium. We were instructed to write everything that we had just witnessed, leaving no detail untouched. All I remembered was that two people, whom we later learned were drama students, stormed into the room and disturbed my reverie on how I was about to embark on a career that surely would lead to bringing down some corrupt politician or, better yet, covering a Super Bowl.

That exercise most definitely taught me a valuable lesson about paying close attention to what’s going on, and being said, around you. But, on occasion, this can be a struggle, as many of us have learned at some point, when forced to endure an excruciatingly monotonous training session under the tutelage of an instructor, whose idea of an inspiring lecture was regurgitating a well-worn script with all the passion of someone sweeping the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, if said low-bid training was intended to address rig floor safety, and all you took away was how the clock had decided to take an agonizingly long break, having no idea how to prevent or react to a hazardous situation later could have less-than-desirable consequences.

London-based eLearning training provider Oilennium Ltd believes that it has the perfect stimulant to keep students’ eyes off the clock and fully engaged during safety training. The Petrofac Training Services company has teamed up with theater troupe, Acting Up World, of Edinburgh, Scotland, to debut an industry first: an online suite of dramatic films meant to inspire oil and gas personnel to connect emotionally with their individual health and safety behavior. The short films and animations feature stories about people, avoidable accidents and their tragic aftermaths, says the company. Before its online debut, the theatrical group had delivered live performances to companies.

“In the oil and gas industry, Acting Up World has an excellent track record for getting people emotionally engaged with H&S training,” says Kevin Keable, Oilennium managing director. “As providers of eLearning courses for the oil and gas industry, it’s critical that our participants are fully prepared to embrace training in safe working practices. If we can’t get participants to connect emotionally, they will not change their behavior.”

The suite includes animated short films, based on scripts of live performances by Acting Up, in addition to several live-action dramatic films, all addressing common themes. “Our aim has always been to bring performances about everyday working life to those who will never have seen messages presented in this way,” said Emma Currie, founder and managing director of Acting Up World.

Oilennium also takes a rather macabre, Dickensian twist, with the ghost of a deceased rig hand appearing at his own funeral to address those whose carelessness played a role in his death. Oilennium said the scene is meant to explore the domino effect of allowing negligent behaviors to pass as acceptable.

These folks may definitely be on to something, especially for those who can spend hours playing video games, but would doze off or become restless 20 min into a lecture. Given that generational reality, one has to image what would have the greater impact: Sir Laurence Olivier, at his Shakespearean best, delivering a passionate soliloquy on how to safely stab pipe, or pointing out careless driving habits by pulling out a vintage clip of Steve McQueen, he of Bullitt film fame, speeding at up to 110 mph through downtown San Francisco.

In all seriousness, as the industry explores every possible avenue to continually improve its overall safety record, especially in the high-paced U.S. onshore sector, where bodies, experienced or otherwise, are at a premium, total engagement during instruction on good safety practices is absolutely imperative. Perhaps, taking the thespian approach is an ingenious means of reaching that end, providing the audience doesn’t become so immersed in the theatrics that the message gets lost.

A grateful shout out. I must interrupt here to express profound gratitude to some merciful hands from FMC Technologies, who saved a couple of stranded visitors from temporary starvation.

Allow me to explain: World Oil’s Bailey Simpson and I were in South Louisiana the last week in January, gathering material for the annual Port Fourchon supplement, to appear in the April issue. As it turned out, our timing could have been a bit better, as that week, southernmost Louisiana was hit by an Arctic blast. To say this was an unseasonable event for this part of the country is like saying the Titanic could have been a more enjoyable cruise.

Fearing the bridges and roads alongside the bayous could ice over, Lafourche Parish officials took the preemptive measure of installing a 24-hr curfew. Unless you drove a police cruiser, ambulance or other emergency vehicle, you were ordered to stay in place. The last-minute closure caught Simpson and I unawares, and with all food establishments closed, our dinner appeared likely to consist of a can of pistachios and two granola bars. That’s where the kind folks at FMC come in. Arriving from Texas for a job, grill in tow, they had had prepared a substantial helping of chicken, which they graciously shared.

FMC Christmas Trees have taken on an entirely new meaning. wo-box_blue.gif

About the Authors
Jim Redden
Contributing Editor
Jim Redden is a Houston-based consultant and a journalism graduate of Marshall University, has more than 40 years of experience as a writer, editor and corporate communicator, primarily on the upstream oil and gas industry.
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