Much of what organisations like the British Drilling Association (BDA) undertakes is hidden away behind the scenes; from the many guidance documents it creates and issues through to the audits and technical input it provides that collectively project the level of quality and performance that clients have come to expect from its members.
However, the BDA's seminar series was something of a departure from this approach, instead choosing to interface directly with its industry sector through the delivery of a number of educational and informative topics pertinent to the drilling sector and those industries upon which its activities impact. This was a bold move and not initially without its risks, but from the very first seminar, they have been well-received.
In fact, the total number of attendees over the past two seminar cycles - some seven events, with the recent Cardiff seminar being the seventh in the series - over 500 people have taken time out of their valuable working day to listen to a variety of speakers from some of the biggest names in the construction industry.
The seminar programme initiative itself came about from the BDA's desire to address some of the wider issues facing the drilling sector, avoiding the profile-raising approach, although it was hoped the BDA's profile would benefit and this has been the case and the Association has seen membership grow as a result. There have been a lot of changes occurring within the construction industry and the BDA felt it was critically important to not just BDA members, but to the wider drilling sector, its member's clients (consultants, main contractor, public and private organisations) and associated industries, that an awareness and some understanding of their impact be communicated.
Topics such as Eurocodes, procurement, rig safety, site safety, safety culture, asbestos, underground services, innovation, ROGEP, data management changes as well as other areas not directly drilling-related, such as surveying and geophysics, are all evolving and while good information is out there, the BDA felt that to enhance understanding a discussion forum was perhaps the best platform where issues could be augmented with real-world case history projects showing both good and bad approaches as well as touch upon sensitive subjects such as mental health and wellbeing and new approaches to understanding and addressing it.
Well, the numbers attending the seminars speak for themselves and are only further supported by the additional feedback received from delegates directly and anecdotally. The BDA's goal to educate and inform through the seminars was met. They helped also align the BDA's approach with that of the industry while focussing efforts into what industry felt was missing. The BDA has begun filling that void, be that through these and planned seminars or more in-depth through supporting guidance documents and its involvement in standards groups, etc.
The seminar held back in September 2017 sought to examine "Emerging Best Practice in GE for Infra Projects" and was a bold move by the BDA, and while it and the success of subsequent seminars support the BDA's original approach, the success must also reflect the appetite of the drilling community to learn and discover. It is often all too easy to be cynical of the drilling industry's reluctance to change or adapt, an accusation levelled all too easily at the wider construction sector too, but the success of the BDA's seminars is proof, if ever it was needed, that that the drilling sectors is progressive, modernising and ready to face the challenges of the future be they commercial, technological or regulatory.