The Importance of Competence in the Pipeline Industry

Proceedings Publication Date:

29 Apr 2019
Prof. Dr. Phil Hopkins
Dr. Phil Hopkins
Part of the proceedings of

Pipeline standards and regulations require any engineer working on a pipeline to be both 'competent' and 'qualified' to perform job tasks. Unfortunately, these standards and regulations do not give guidance on how to demonstrate staff are both competent and qualified.

We can easily define competence: competence is the ability to undertake responsibilities, and to perform activities to a recognised standard. It is a combination of skills (ability to do a task), knowledge (ability to understand and explain the task), experience (type, years, supervision to obtain the knowledge), and behaviours.  Most individuals will demonstrate their competency by quoting their academic and professional achievements, training programs completed, and relevant experience.  A better, more rigorous and objective approach, is to use ‘competency standards’ to demonstrate competency.

Competency standards provide a common definition of a competency, with its minimum requirements, and are used to assess the competency of an individual. The purpose of the competency standard is simple - it is used to provide objective evidence that an individual has the necessary skills and experience to conduct the tasks in a defined competency. Individuals passing a competency assessment are considered 'qualified' in that competence. This assessment could be by examination, interview, performance, etc., but it must be formal and recorded.

This paper explains the benefits of employing competent staff, and the dangers with retaining incompetent staff. It covers the role of confidence in competency appraisals, and how it is very important to collect relevant data on an individual to assist in the appraisals.

Finally, the paper covers the experience of developing staff in other industries, and how they use these data to improve their own safety record.