Assuring Competency Beyond Training for DP Operators

With the next generation entering the workforce, how do you ensure the training you’re providing them is being followed in day-to-day operations?

DP Operators

Let’s take the Dynamic Positioning (DP) Operator job role as an example. This job requires a person to maintain the critical positioning of ships on open waters. There are high risks associated with executing the tasks associated with the job, so companies should want to have constant assurance that their DP Operators are capable of performing their job role safely and reliably. Without that assurance, there is an increased potential for failure, which would be costly for these companies.

Workplace Assessment

In the U.S. we have historically trained individuals (mostly on the job) and at some point, a trusted trainer gives a thumbs up or down as to the worker’s ability to work on their own. In other words, they have shown some level of competence in performing the job consistently. Jobs in the nuclear, aviation, space, and medical fields all require competency assessment by qualified assessors, who assess the knowledge and performance of individuals in critical job roles in these industries over and over again during their career lifecycle. But for the average worker, the only assessment they may get is a test (written or verbal) on what they know and some informal assessment of their performance, which is based mostly on the opinion (not a standard) of the person tasked with signing off on their ability to do the job alone.

Structured workplace assessment, by qualified assessors, is slowly starting to be practiced as a tool to provide assurance of a worker’s competence both in knowledge and in performance. These qualified assessors must demonstrate their competence in remaining neutral throughout an assessment, and in making a competency judgment based solely on the requirements from an approved assessment standard.

We’ve seen a movement in the U.S. to implement Competency Management Systems (CMS), mainly in the oil and gas industry because of high risks associated with certain job roles. This ties to our example of the DP Operator, a position required on deep-water drillships used in the Gulf of Mexico to find hydrocarbons and produce them. Regulators know the role of the DP Operator is critical to safe and reliable operations on these ships and now have a rule in place to address the competency of those who undertake this job. That rule describes how the DP Operator must be assessed by a trained and qualified assessor against established standards.

Qualified Assessors

So, how do you assure the assessors you select are trained to international and national assessor standards? How do you ensure that they understand and can perform the specified requirements of a workplace assessor? What controls do you put in place to ensure they make a competency judgment on a DP Operator based on an approved standard instead of their personal opinion? If you use internal assessors in your company, how do you qualify your assessors, and how do they maintain their qualifications? All of these questions have a direct effect on the risk level of your ship’s daily operation.

The U.S. Coast Guard has drafted specific language to this very point. The DP Operator workplace assessors should not only know the DP job duties and responsibilities; they should also be able to show and demonstrate the following:

  • Understanding of and the ability to explain the competence assurance process to those they’re assessing.
  • Understanding of the assessment cycle process and the importance of following each step in order.
  • The ability to demonstrate the key skills of a workplace assessor—they need to be assessed and signed off as a competent assessor.
  • Judging evidence and recording assessments that align with the legal requirements of their company’s competency management system.
  • Communicating and providing feedback to those they’ve assessed to ensure each assessment is seen in a positive light as a way to help develop their careers.

How to Ensure Your Assessors are Qualified

Assessing a DP Operator is much more than just giving them a knowledge test and grading it to see if they passed. Applying the USCG recommendations to verify the assessors are using a consistent, approved process to assess DP Operators is a starting point for developing a more competent, safer workforce and workplace for others.

How can we help you assess your assessors and provide assurance of their qualifications? Contact us today to talk about how we can work with you to improve your assessment and competency processes.

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