The British Drilling Association (BDA) is the UK's trade association for the ground drilling industry.

BDA Articles

February 2018 | Change Control | Author – Simon Jackson, Part of the BDA training and education committee

It has long been the practice of companies working in the Civil Construction industry to be innovative, to encourage the workforce to participate in initiative schemes, from offering rewards for engineering solutions to solving issues around the capability of plant and equipment. Let’s face it, there are very few pieces of kit out there in the market place that do exactly what we need them to do and so there is always room for some improvement. 

Things are much improved of course, but there is always the odd ‘tweak’ that could be done to get around an obstacle or to reduce time on site and increase profit margins, and there it is right there – the driver of all improvements since the Industrial Revolution - is ’profit’.

However, times, as they say are a changing! Gone are the ‘back-of-a fag-packet’ drawings and sketches or the Heath Robinson approaches that we then expect our engineering workshops to create. The modern, sophisticated organisation today will have in place a comprehensive procedure for looking at Plant and Equipment modifications.

Of course – legislation and the standard ISO9001:2015 section 8.5.6, raises its necessary head requiring us to review and control changes, retain documented information describing the results of the review, authorising the review and raising necessary actions arising from the review. There is the common misconception that a change, thought about and agreed among contract managers, designers, plant managers and fitters is ok, often with advice sought from the manufacturer and tests undertaken. However, a very important part of the process is missed. Documentation of the process, recording all the necessary elements that have led to the accurate assessment of the ‘change control’ is a requirement. Good documented evidence will record the facts and ‘evidence’ the process, the controls that lead us to believe that whatever changes are made are legitimate and arrived at without raising the risk level. Health & Safety at Work Act (1974) too requires us, as an employer, to provide a safe system of work and PUWER 1998 clearly considers change in the body of the regulation. It is clear that there is a duty of care and a legal and procedural requirement that addresses in full, change control.

However, can we really be saving money or increasing profit margins by carrying out unplanned change? We must as an industry STOP and consider the consequences of dealing with a fatality or serious injury through unplanned, unauthorised and unrecorded change. The loss or serious injury of a loved one through lack of planning is suffered all too often in our industry. We must consider management too as, through changes in the law, one could potentially find themselves in jail under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The financial implications of a huge fine to the organisation, if found to be in breach of the law, regulation, or company procedure could prove to be the undoing of years of good practice in other areas. Therefore, it is easy to see how financial and reputational damage to the organisation could prove damaging to all interested parties.

So, what can be done? The implementation of a procedure to challenge change must come from ‘Risk based thinking’ through planning, review and improvement as it makes us think ahead. Change Control must be a preventative tool to establish sound, comprehensive, understandable and practical procedure and process and not an interference or hindrance to improved practices. The idea is not to prevent change, but to control change.

Controlled, Risk based thinking leads to and builds upon embedded safety cultures, always asking those questions that prompt us to consider safe systems of work.

  • Why? Why do we need this change? (safety, wellbeing, efficiency, financial gain)

  • What? What will it achieve? (a safer system of work)

  • How? How will we achieve it?

  • Where? Where will it be used?

  • Who? Who will benefit?

The emphasis of how important it is to approach change must be understood so that the organisation, the senior management and the workforce are as safe as can reasonably expected to be, given that the change has been planned, recorded and signed off by qualified, responsible persons with the authority to do so. The ‘fag packet’ mentality must be a thing of the past and the question we must all ask when considering overlooking, or we are asked to ignore Change Control Procedures with its inherent intention to save all of us from potential harm, is what if?


February 2018 | Procuring Ground Investigation – The Challenges | Author – Philip Ball, Member of the BDA Executive Committee

Procuring ground investigation services is a tricky task.  Neither Amazon or eBay market it and nowhere can you find a star rating for the hundreds of firms involved!

There was plenty of evidence at this week’s BDA seminar ‘Emerging Best Practise in Ground Investigation for Linear Infrastructure Projects’ to reaffirm the difficulties that persist in the industry relating to the correct and appropriate selection of ground investigation specialists.   For example, one delegate from a large organisation voiced the need for detailed, specific site investigation that meets the needs of the detailed design, whilst others voiced concerns over the general lack of recognition and status of the BDA – its aims and what it stands for, as well as the positive impact it is having on the wider drilling sector.

From a client’s perspective ground investigation is often a necessary evil that they are told they need but don’t see the value in or carry any consequences for.  Often then, the lowest cost is chosen not the best value.  Frequently those procuring the work are not going to be involved with the follow-on project – land ownership changes, project teams move on or the scheme is put on hold.  So, the consequences of a poor selection are not felt by those that make them.

The sector is populated by everyone from single-machine operator/owners to multi-million-pound international organisations with sophisticated laboratories and digital everything.  Some don’t have any plant or equipment and others have bespoke top-of-the-range tooling.  How can we make sense of this mix?

Even informed clients and consultants – and there are still many – will struggle to be able to base their selections on rational argument.  No amount of prequalification questions will reveal the real value or quality of a business; they are the minimum standards in most cases.  The decline of in-house specialists in so many major organisations means that procurement of some services is misunderstood and mishandled which inevitably results in poor choices.  Inappropriate forms of contract, incomplete specifications and miss-matched bills of quantities are commonplace.  Then, when the work gets to site the supervision and understanding of what is happening is non-existent or lacking.  It is not a good situation in so many ways.

The SPOTLIGHT survey initiated in 2016 reveals the scale of some of the issues with some startling statistics:

  • Compliance with codes and standards: 59% of respondents had either a ‘good working knowledge’ or were ‘completely familiar’ with the Technical Standards
  • Procurement: 58% agreed that "Inappropriate procurement processes discourage adhering to the Technical Standards”
  • Safety: 77% of respondents either had a good working knowledge of legislation or were completely familiar with the legislation

In an attempt to make a small improvement the BDA has been developing a "Buyer’s Guide to BDA Members”.  This is intended to provide factual information for any buying organisation to use to evaluate which specialists are appropriate for their scheme and what capabilities they have.  Some information will be provided by member firms in good faith and some will be audited independently.  The key facts most buyers need to know relate to the scale and complexity of their project; do the subcontract specialists fit the profile for the work I need doing?  No client wants or benefits from a mismatched selection of tenderers.  None of those pricing the work want to waste time and effort if the competition is not appropriate.  Ideally the buyer will create an appropriate "playing field for everyone to drill through on an equal basis”.

During 2018 the BDA will roll out the criteria for its members to review and comment upon.  By the end of the year the return of the completed question set will become mandatory for members heading in to 2019.  Then the results will be published on the BDA website for reference along with the live records of all audited drillers.  In this way it is intended that buyers can be more easily informed about the firms to choose and the site staff can be certain that they are using validated drillers.

There is no expectation that any of the above will guarantee that site operations will always go perfectly, or issues will not arise from time to time, but it is hoped that at least the procurement process will start off with the most appropriate firms being invited to tender for work that suits their skills and capacity.




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