A Drillers’ Path to Success

December 1, 2020

It is some time since Drilling Operatives simply started their careers as Support Operatives (Second Man as it was known then) and, via hands-on experience alone, developed into a Lead Driller then on to possibly a Drilling Supervisor.

Today, a ‘Driller’ is a professional person who performs a skilled operation: he or she is responsible for operating safely and delivering a quality technical service with due consideration for the environment, just as much as any other trade person and therefore deserves to be recognised as such.

A driller typically attains qualifications (Land Drilling NVQ Level 2 and 3) and has to pass various support qualifications along their career path, such as First Aid, Road and Street Works etc., which are either essential for all operations or specific to certain environments/sites/clients. The use of tablet computers to record data is a further upcoming skill requirement and a change to working that requires the driller to adapt and learn.

Unfortunately, there are some people within the drilling industry with the opinion that “no career path exists for drillers”. These people must have been living in the dark for the past 30 years!

There have been many milestones marking the key developments and introductions of qualifications, which have enhanced drilling standards and skills, including:

  • 1990 – BDA Driller Accreditation
  • 2000 – Land Drilling Level 2 NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in disciplines of Cable Percussion, Rotary Drilling and Dynamic Sampling)
  • 2001 – CSCS Land Drilling Card
  • 2005 – BDA Audit in Cable Percussion, Rotary Drilling and Dynamic Sampling
  • 2007 – BDA Apprentice Scheme supported by CITB (10 Groups since launch)
  • 2019 – Land Drilling NVQ Level 3 Developed
  • 2020 – BDA Audit continual development and totally digitised
  • 2021 (expected) – BDA Audit achieve certification
  • 2021 (expected) – BDA Apprentice Scheme – Group 11 expected to start Q2
  • 2022 (expected) – BDA Audit in Geothermal & Water Well Development
  • 2022 (expected) – BDA Trailblazer Apprenticeship

All of the above have been developed through the voluntary support of British Drilling Association (BDA) members, in partnership with and encouragement by organisations such as the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The ‘Apprenticeship Scheme’ for example, since its inception has taken 10 groups of 7-8 people through an 18-month course, the end result being the widespread achievement of the NVQ Land Drilling qualification.

Guidance documents have also been developed pertaining to all aspects associated with Site Investigation operations. Many of these have also been specified and adopted in Client specifications and various associated documents as ‘best practise’ – which again the professional “Driller” must be familiar with. Some of these documents are listed below:

  • 1995 – EN 791 Drilling Rig Safety
  • 2002 – Health and Safety Manual
  • 2005 – Guidance Cable Percussion
  • 2007 – Guidance Dynamic Sampling
  • 2008 – Guidance Contaminated Land (adopted by ICE Yellow Book as Part 3)
  • 2012 – Hazardous Gas Document with Coal Authority
  • 2014 – EN16228 Drill Rig Safety (replaces EN 791)
  • 2015 – Health and Safety Manual (revised)
  • 2018 – Guidance Cable Percussion (revised)
  • 2021 (expected) – Guidance Rotary Drilling
  • 2021 (expected) – Guidance Contaminated Land (revised)

Certainly, this is a lot of information to digest and adapt to within a typical Site Investigation setting, which may be undertaken in all manner of environmental settings such as roads, rail, nuclear, contaminated, land and over water.

For those people who feel the drilling operative has no career development path, they need only consider the developments and changes that have taken place in the last 30 years.

Several recent Client information events have received comments from respondents about there being ‘no career path’ or development potential for a driller. If you encounter such an opinion please refer them to this article, which will educate them in all the developments, qualifications and guidance that exist within the drilling industry.

Site Investigation performed today is at a significantly higher level than it was 30 years ago and the main reason for this is that the work is being performed by well-trained, highly qualified and very professional “DRILLERS”.

Author:  John Grainger, Director, British Drilling Association

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