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Workforce Involvement Group (WIG) Podcast
Wednesday 18 July 2012

How I became a Safety Rep - Bob Niven and Duncan Tee

Duncan Tee: Hello, I'm Duncan Tee, Offshore Installation Manager at Teekay Petrojarl and a WIG member. Thanks for logging on to this podcast. With me today I have Bob Niven, Instrument Technician and Safety Rep on Petrofac's Kittiwake Platform. Bob has kindly agreed to share with everyone how he became and still is a Safety Rep.

Bob Niven: Hi Duncan, thanks for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to tell my story and hopefully it will inspire others from the offshore workforce to follow me.

DT: It is our pleasure Bob, so let's start at the beginning. Would you like to tell everyone out there a brief background of how you first ended up in the offshore oil industry?

BN: Thanks Duncan, I started on the Kittiwake platform as ad-hoc 8/9 years ago and worked in that capacity for 8 months, doing 8 trips. I have to say I immediately enjoyed the type of work I was doing and I also liked the place I was working in, so when interviews were going ahead for Core positions on the platform, I put myself forward without hesitation, and thankfully, was successful.

DT: So you get a core position what happened then?

BN: Well, now that I was part of core crew, I was required to do fire team training, in order to join the fire team. This training was duly organised after my first trip as core crew.

DT: So that was the first step to you becoming a Safety Rep?

BN: Yes, you could say the fire training started it all. I was in Montrose, halfway through the course - just stepping out of the shower, washing the black smoke away from another busy day of training, when my mobile phone rang; - it was my maintenance supervisor at the time.

He casually informed me he had forwarded on to me some forms that I needed to complete and return to him as soon as possible, which I promised to do when I returned home. The conversation was very informal with just everyday chat, when at the end of the conversation, and totally out of the blue, he asked me, ‘Had I ever thought about becoming a Safety Rep on the Kittiwake platform?’ Well, as you can imagine, I was taken aback and didn’t know what to say.  Instinctively I replied, "Thanks for the offer, but I think that you would probably be better served by someone with more experience of the platform than myself" The conversation ended in the usual exchange of goodbyes and that I thought was that.

However, returning home on the Saturday night,  you can imagine to my surprise when opening my emails to complete the forms as requested, there was one that jumped out at me , congratulating me on my volunteering to become a Kittiwake Safety Rep.

DT: Couldn't you then have told him he'd made a mistake, and refused the job?

BN: Looking back that seems the most logical thing to do Duncan and I possibly should have, but being the 'new kid on the block 'so to speak, I thought at the time, I’d better not rock the boat.  However   that was 8 years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since, so something must have gone right. To tell you the truth, it is the best that has happened to me. I certainly wouldn't be looking to packing it in now, even if I wanted to, I couldn't.

DT: So what keeps you going Bob?

BN: Well, as after this time of doing it, and on reflection although I have realised the job can be tough at times, the rewards far outweigh these times and I wouldn’t change that. Something must be good about it I have been doing it for 8 years.

DT: You say it is rewarding in what can be tough times, so what is it you get out of it?

BN: There are a variety of things. Some of the courses I have attended have been good for meeting other offshore workers that also applies to meetings but it is building up a network of contacts with other Safety Reps and the camaraderie we seem to have together, as we all strive for the same goal of making the offshore workplace a safer one to work in.

Also, the job can also be varied,  arranging safety meeting agendas, trying to keep them at least a little bit interesting, but what keeps me going maybe only happens a couple of times a year.  When a colleague will come to me with a problem or issue, you can see they are not happy, and they may be uncomfortable doing a certain task. They are genuinely seeking advice and help, from ME, that is a good feeling and so far, I have usually been able to give that help, or get information from elsewhere that helps solve the problem - that is what makes it worthwhile, that is what keeps me going. There is a lot of job satisfaction being a Safety Rep.

DT: Thank you for that Bob, any final words you wish to finish with?

BN: Well Duncan, thanks again for inviting me , I’m glad to be able to tell my story, if only to demonstrate that even under  circumstances like my own in becoming a Safety Rep there can be a happy and rewarding outcome and would certainly encourage others to become a Safety Rep, it is a very rewarding position to hold.

Updated 2012-07-20