Over the past decade the Energy Chamber’s flagship Safe to Work (STOW) programme has helped many smaller contractors and service companies implement robust health, safety and environmental management systems and to meet the requirements of major customer companies in the energy sector. There are now almost 500 companies fully STOW certified. Despite this success, the energy industry must continue to work to make sure every single contractor or service company carrying-out high risk work is fully compliant and meets the STOW requirements.
The “lower for longer” price environment has led to cost-cutting across the oil and gas sector including within service companies and contractors responding to demands for price cuts from their major customers. Implementing the HSE management systems to meet the STOW requirements can involve some significant investment costs, which can be a particular burden for smaller companies who do not have well established systems in place. Nevertheless, the low price environment must not lead to any loss of focus on safety and it is vital that we continue to pursue the industry-wide goal of having all contractors meet the high standards set by STOW.
The Energy Chamber has recognised the challenge for small contractors of meeting the STOW pre-qualification requirement and we have developed a number of free tools and resources to help companies in their efforts to improve standards. These are all available through the STOW website. In addition, some of our large member companies have provided specific help to their contractors in meeting the requirements. Petrotrin has created a very detailed manual to help small contractors meet the requirements, which they have made available for free both directly and through the STOW project office at the Energy Chamber.
Despite the provision of these free materials there are still some unscrupulous consultants who try to convince smaller contractors that they can guarantee them STOW certification, in exchange for some pretty heft consultant fees. Approved STOW Assessors can help companies with getting ready for certification and if companies need consulting advice we strongly recommend that they use these trained and certified individuals (details are on the STOW website). But no consultant can guarantee STOW certification. Companies have to fully implement their own HSE management systems and this requires a commitment from the leadership of the company; consultants can advise and assist but they cannot guarantee certification.
The Energy Chamber urges all stakeholders in the industry to support the effort to improve HSE performance and to encourage all high-risk contractors to meet the STOW minimum requirements. We are committed to a process of continuous improvement of STOW and we actively encourage feedback from all stakeholders through regular engagement sessions and direct communication. The low price environment must not be used as an excuse to cut corners on safety. We must continue to operate safely and ensure that all our employees return to their families, unharmed, each and every day.