Understanding OSRL’s Subject Matter Experts (SME) programme
In this article, Aaron Montgomery, development and assurance lead for OSRL, explains the path the organisation has taken to develop and implement a benchmark framework for training, developing, measuring and recognising subject matter experts in key technical disciplines.
What is the Subject Matter Expert Programme?
The SME programme is an ambitious exercise, designed to develop OSRL’s internal capability in key technical fields and disseminate this increased understanding to the wider industry. To achieve this, we’ll be working hand-in-hand with our partners, members and subject matter specialists to expand our knowledge and ultimately, ensure that our members receive the benefits, now and in the future.
As part of the programme, we have identified eight core areas we want to address and we’ve established working groups for each discipline, populated by OSRL staff with a blend of existing expertise and personal interest. Each core group will also have an industry sponsor, who is a specialist in their respective field. Collectively, the members of each group will be responsible for advancing the objectives they have set to enhance OSRL’s response and preparedness capability.
What can you tell us about each of the core groups?
Each core group has been created to address a specific area of expertise so they are clearly defined and broadly follow the key disciplines of spill response and preparedness.
The first group is ‘Cold Weather’, which is looking at all aspects of preparedness and response in cold weather regions, including testing new equipment and processes to ensure weather related challenges are understood and mitigated from the outset. This group is especially important as operators begin to explore previously inaccessible locations that present unique operational, environmental and safety challenges.
Next is ‘Dispersants’, which is currently focused on communication and education regarding dispersant use. For example, one of the group’s objectives is ensuring that any misconceptions surrounding how dispersants work, or the potential impact of their use, are honestly presented, without the hyperbole.
For example, members of the dispersant core group have already been involved with various projects – such as working with members to promote a better understanding of dispersants and delivering dispersant workshops in New Zealand, Thailand, Denmark and Canada.
Third is the ‘Shoreline’ group, which - unsurprisingly - is interested in shoreline assessment, protection and clean-up. More specifically, this group is looking at how we can continuously improve OSRL’s capability in shoreline response and preparedness services through technical development, stakeholder engagement and increased competencies within the discipline.
One of their current objectives is conducting ‘training needs analysis’ to identify areas of the business that already meet our expected benchmark of knowledge, areas that exceed it, and most importantly, those that currently fall short.
The forth group is ‘Inland’, which has similar objectives to the shoreline group and is also looking at assessment, protection and mitigation as a way to establish updated best-practice guidelines for our members and the wider industry.
Fifth is the Offshore SME group, which is focused on the continuous development of our offshore response and preparedness capabilities. The offshore team is fully engaged with our stakeholders and leading experts within the wider offshore field, as it looks to identify new strategies, techniques and best-practice methodologies through industry collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Next is the ‘Surveillance’ group, which alongside the seventh group, ‘Modelling and Visualisation’, is developing a global strategy for surveillance, modelling and visualisation (SMV). This strategy will detail how OSRL integrates these three key functions into our preparedness and response services. To achieve this, the team is gaining input and endorsement from key stakeholders and beginning the implementation of the strategy, as well as highlighting OSRL’s ongoing stewardship.
In addition to SMV activity, the surveillance team is responsible for managing the assessment of emerging technologies, such as AUVs and UAVs, to understand how we can maximise their potential and mitigate any potential risks. This will then be fed to all our members and response teams to agree best-practice guidelines for their use in specific scenarios.
The ‘Modelling and Visualisation’ group is also heavily involved with another critical project; the development of the SCAT app (Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Technique). The M&V team is working in tandem with the ‘Shoreline’ group, as well as specific members, such as Statoil and Exxon Mobil, to conduct dedicated exercises and perform data collection missions. The goal is to advance the on-going development of a dedicated, mobile phone based application – which is already being used to facilitate easier and faster communication and data collection during a live shoreline clean-up operation.
The eighth and final group is ‘Incident Management Systems’, or IMS, which is reviewing OSRL’s internal IMS training requirements. These revised standards will, when complete, be adopted by OSRL and different levels established for our members. This all must be agreed and then communicated to the wider industry so there is huge amount of work involved.
You mention the benefits to the industry; can you expand on that?
As the world’s largest response provider, owned by our members, we have a responsibility to be at the forefront of the industry – constantly evolving our approaches, methodologies and techniques. The intelligence and insight we are already discovering through the SME programme is critically important so we have a clear responsibility to share what we learn with our members but also the wider industry. We do this through whitepaper and technical documentation, presentations at events, exhibitions and conferences and through formalised training sessions or webinars.
What’s more, we constantly look to collaborate with our members and the wider industry at every opportunity. Not only does this raise our profile as an organisation, but more importantly, it highlights our extensive internal technical capability and demonstrates how we nurture our people through training and professional development.
Finally, when do you expect the programme to be complete?
We are currently three years into the programme but is designed to be an on-going and continual effort to develop individual and collective knowledge and experience in specific focus areas. The groups work to a three-year strategy, allowing us to remain focused on clear objectives, whilst remaining agile and able to regularly evaluate the work each group is performing to ensure it continues to meet the changing needs of industry change as new information and research comes to light.
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In next weeks feature, we will be speaking with Liam Harrington-Missin, the co-chair of the ‘Modelling and Visualisation’ working group, who explains the team’s goals and activity, and how they are helping OSRL maintain its position as the world’s foremost oil spill expert.