Drilling – An Industry to be Proud of!

January 29, 2021

They say the New Year is all about looking forward, and it is to a large degree, but I think it is also a time for reflection and to look back on the achievements and successes we have achieved. Applying this to the British Drilling Association (BDA), and specifically the drilling industry, with my BDA Chair hat on, I could not help but feel proud of the sector’s achievements and not just over the last 12 months.

I think most of us know that the BDA was borne from the real desire to give strength and a voice to the drilling industry, but to also drive common interests forward through the collective input of the sector into areas such as health and safety and the raising of professional standards. From its inception back in the 1970s – a loose collection of companies committed to common goals – through to today’s fully represented organisation, bounded by Articles of Association and a growing reputation and construction sector, it is certainly punching far above its weight.

I could go over the many key milestones the BDA has achieved over the years, and for those interested there is a nice timeline on the BDA website, but it is the more recent achievements that I think have truly established the BDA. The many committees and sub-committees, all populated and driven by people giving their time and knowledge freely to a common cause, have brought sweeping industry change and often go without recognition. Across all facets of the drilling sector from health and safety, standards, guidance and the BDA Audit, the dedication and hard work of members involved have seen these all not only move in what is termed the ‘right direction’ but in most cases have actually leaped forward in real-world measurable terms.

The BDA has looked also at its own sector’s future too and recognising the ever-present skills shortage and the difficulties the entire construction industry has in attracting people, from across all demographics, it established its own apprenticeship scheme, which has been successful and is this too is evolving all the time.

In recent years, the upsurge of ground investigations for large, linear infrastructure has seen the sector embrace new methods such as window sampling, new percussive techniques, wire line coring, mini hydraulic rotary rigs, etc., and the BDA has been proactive in issuing guidance where appropriate. The BDA Audit, which perhaps more than any other aspect of the BDA’s work, is now considered the de-facto standard to be achieved for any company looking to demonstrate best practise and professionalism and is widely respected by our customer base and a true differentiator in what is a competitive environment – some achievement!

The growth in the BDA’s external profile and presence is also worth a mention: through the Audit, guidance documents and other initiatives, as a specialist contractor, the drilling industry has a voice that is now listened to more than ever before and the activities the BDA and its members are involved with are regularly included in the geotechnical media, as well as more widely in the general construction press. The BDA is now regularly contacted for its opinion on all matters of its work – from health and safety through to more general issues such as skills, diversity, and inclusivity. It has to be said – people only listen if we have good things to say and we are obviously saying the right things.

And talking diversity, the drilling sector is shedding rapidly its ‘male-only’ perception, reflecting the more diverse nature of society and all for the benefit of the drilling and wider construction sector. You only have to look to our recent first female Chair and MD of Raeburn, Anne Baxter, who brought so much to the BDA, as well as being a role model for women working in or considering a career in construction. Others such Natalie Bews, Director, Concept Engineering Consultants Ltd, have helped champion women in construction and this is tremendous.

Wellbeing and mental health, those taboo subjects that typically nobody likes acknowledging or talking about, has not been shunned by the BDA, and does all it can to tackle the issue and get us all talking about it and even better – recognising the problem in ourselves and colleagues, and what help is available.

I could go on, as there is so much to shout about, but this is a short blog and whilst the sector will continue to face challenges, and it has certainly faced a few over the last year, I think drilling is a sector we can be proud of and one, more importantly, I am proud to be a part of!

Author:  Richard Fielden, Chair, British Drilling Association

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