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CAODC Safety Awards: Tradition with Impact

Saturday, 29 Mar 2014

[Published in The Roughneck] April is the month when land-based drilling rigs and well servicing rigs celebrate the safety successes of the previous year.  CAODC hosts two evening banquets to celebrate the crews who made these achievements possible.

Given the nature of the work environment, completing rig operations in a safe and efficient manner requires significant focus.  Heavy equipment, adverse weather conditions and pressing deadlines all present possible hazards that crews mitigate with strict safety procedures.

Crews that manage incident-free operations undoubtedly deserve recognition from industry.  It is no surprise that field employees are proud of these achievements and attach some importance to their Safety Days, the measure employers use to determine who is recognized at a CAODC Safety Awards banquet.   Drillers and Rig Managers who accrue 200 consecutive days incident-free are eligible for a CAODC Safety Awards scroll.

Safety Awards banquets aren’t an ongoing tradition merely because CAODC has been throwing these parties every April for a good long time.  There is something critically important in the way CAODC members gather as an industry to recognize employees. 

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In 2005, CAODC received a flood of calls from experienced crew members requesting records of their Safety Days.  The Rig Technician trade had recently been introduced.  To qualify for the new journeyman certificate, senior field employees needed documentation of work experience.  CAODC staff had to redirect these inquiries.  Provincial administrators of the Rig Technician trade don’t accept Safety Days as proof of time in trade but require a formal Confirmation of Work Experience document from employers.

For anyone in the industry, however, Safety Days were an indisputable way to prove work history.  CAODC had been coordinating Safety Days for three decades.  It was logical for drilling crewmembers to identify their Safety Days as the go-to resource to support an application for the journeyman qualification. 

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In 2009, when companies scrambled to manage balance sheets in a tough economic environment, CAODC faced difficult decisions organizing that year’s Safety Awards.  Sponsorship and ticket sales – the primary funding vehicles for the banquets – were down.  The budget was tight.  One way CAODC navigated the shortfall was to eliminate the tradition of Safety Awards water glasses.

These tumblers  – stamped with the CAODC logo and the year of the event – had been a long-time staple of the banquets, but, in 2009, with the economy choked by recession, costs needed trimming.

At that year’s banquets, the outcry over the missing glasses was swift.  Field employees (or, more accurately, the wives of field employees) were confounded that a year would be unaccounted for in their series of CAODC Safety Awards glass collection.

In at least one rig manager’s house, the 2009 budget decision interrupted a series of Safety Awards glasses that spanned 25 years.  The dismay continued to echo loudly throughout drilling and service rig companies long after the hotel’s function room had emptied.

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In 2012, CAODC added a new component to Safety Award planning: extending Safety Awards recognition beyond the gathering at the venue.

CAODC placed ads in the Calgary Sun and the Edmonton Journal.  These ads list the names of Safety Award recipients.  It’s a section of newspaper that’s packed tight with columns of names and a clear message that, across western Canada, many hundreds of rig managers and drillers are demanding ‘safety first’ attitudes in rig operations.    

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Throughout the year, industry presents all kinds of data points to showcase the economic health of oil and gas production.  Industry stakeholders review the numbers of wells drilled, of wells completed, and of operating days reported.

Safety Awards, distributed according to Safety Days, are different kinds of numbers, data points that carry thoughtful importance.

These numbers prompt industry to set aside the usual macro view.  Instead, the consideration becomes personal and individual: behind every well drilled and every operating day, a team of employees is putting in a day’s work.

Safety Awards banquets highlight how drilling and service rig activity rests on individual employees, individuals who bring to their job an attentive professionalism and ensure that rigs are run with managed efficiency.

Safety Awards banquets are more than good parties.

They unpack activity statistics and celebrate the achievements of individual crewmembers.  These banquets are, in short, a very important industry tradition.

(CAODC was pleased to have CAODC Safety Awards glasses back on guest tables in 2010 and every year since!)