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Olav Skår joins IOGP as Safety Director

Teamwork comes as second nature to Olav Skår, IOGP’s new Safety Director. An accomplished amateur percussionist and novice tuba-player, he has even performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall. His musical life provides a parallel with his day job: “I often think of my conductors, whose sole task it was to get the best out of the team, without playing a single note. Similarly, at IOGP, we clearly all play many notes in our daily work, but we do not operate valves, spanners or heavy machinery. Instead, our efforts are aimed at safely getting the best out of all frontline folks in our industry.”

Beating the drum for safety

Olav comes to IOGP from Shell, where he was, most recently, Wells Learning Manager. “This made me custodian of the Company’s industry-leading Wells Round I/II Program. My task was to restructure the Program to support a change in strategic direction. As part of that process, we managed to digitalise it as well. The Program was already accredited with a Masters degree but we took it even further by getting external verification that it conforms with all levels of IOGP Report 476 on well control training enhancement. Further, in 2018, I was appointed Visiting Professor with Robert Gordon University for my learning and industry efforts. A huge and very unexpected honour which I am proud to carry with me to IOGP. As a bonus – and with perfect timing – on my last working day before moving to London, we received a Gold Award from Brandon Hall for Excellence in Learning.”

Previous involvement

Olav’s previous involvement with IOGP went considerably beyond Report 476. He was active in the Wells Expert Committee’s (WEC) Competency and Training Subcommittee and now looks forward to expanding his involvement with the WEC and embarking on new relationships with the Chairs of other IOGP Standing Committees.

“I had already engaged with as many IOGP committee colleagues as I could before taking up my appointment and that effort continues,” Olav says. One
of his key topics for discussion is the idea that “all our committees put their thoughts forward five years ahead and describe how they’d like that place to be. From that vantage point, it’s easier to look back on the steps they’d have to take to get to their desired future.”

Olav also avers that it’s essential to focus on front line people. “We
need to think how IOGP actions and recommendations can have a positive impact on coffee shack conversations in terms of tangible improvements at work sites around the world. This is part of my belief that a deeper understanding of human factors is a next key step for us as an industry and as an Association.

“We have to bear in mind,” he continues, “that our industry is global, integrated and complex. We are facing many societal pressures that make risk management even more important. It makes good sense to address industry challenges together and I see IOGP as a lighthouse that helps lead that effort. This also means reaching out to align with many other organisations and groups, one of the greatest privileges that comes with the role.”

Respect, care & trust

Olav’s new title notwithstanding, he doesn’t see his role confined to that discipline; nor should others who work in different areas regard safety as something outside their responsibility. “What we all want is efficient, safe and clean outcomes in our work and this has many contributing parts, ‘safety’ is only one. Having said that, I first felt deep accountability as a safety leader when I moved to Syria in 2001. There, I had several onshore drilling rigs working under me. As it turned out, my main contribution to safety in Syria was all about respect for, care and trust in my team, and we had excellent results. That was a pivotal point in my career which I often refer back to. I am proud to say that many of my Syrian colleagues were first to congratulate me on my appointment with IOGP. Thankfully, I have managed to locate just about all of them after all these years.”

Looking ahead, Olav sees an imminent and short-term safety challenge to structurally help manage the industry’s recovery from its very significant downturn a few years ago. On the positive side, he also sees great opportunities ahead.

“We are well-placed as an Association and an industry to better collaborate, prioritise and coordinate our collective efforts
to eliminate major accident hazards.” Referring again to human factors, he says those considerations “will be a key enabler for the next significant improvements. Finally, there is a broad negative public perception surrounding oil and gas which frustrates me. I believe the excellence we can demonstrate in both safety, environment and other areas, coupled with an exciting view of our contribution to the energy transition, can be used to enhance our industry’s reputation.”

“I am privileged to come to work every day with a sole purpose of being a force for good, and certainly look forward
to engage with those who share that mantra. Together, we will make a bigger difference,” Olav says.

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