Changing the way industry operates

Published:  21 December, 2007

The Maudslay Initiative is a project under the Occupational Standards Council for Engineering's (OSCEng) management which will seek to change the way engineering and manufacturing industries operate. Its concept is simple: in order to work with an engineering asset, product, component, system, process or structure having a particular measure on the relevant industry-agreed scale of consequence, the person concerned would need to have achieved, or be supervised by someone having, an appropriate level of competence. PWE reports.

"The Maudslay Initiative will, if implemented in full, have far-reaching implications for all areas of engineering and manufacturing industries and the way in which those industries train, develop and use their workforces.”

This is the view of Jon Ward, technical director of the Initiative and Tim Feest, executive director of the Occupational Standards Council for Engineering (OSCEng) who together started work on the basic concept and philosophy of the Maudslay Initiative some 3 years ago. This early work is now coming to fruition with the conclusion of negotiations on a formal agreement between OSCEng and Proskills, a Sector Skills Council now leading a cross-sectoral project to identify common standards for health and safety at work, for a scoping exercise to determine the way forward for the Initiative.

As Jon Ward explains: “With funding being made available from the Sector Skills Development Agency, SSDA, through the Proskills agreement, we will be able to carry out some initial, detailed research to determine the level of interest in different sectors. We are convinced that the concept of the Initiative will be attractive to the engineering and manufacturing sectors because it will provide clear incentives, and rewards, for ensuring that their workforce is properly trained and competent in the skills within the scope of the Initiative as well as being directly involved in addressing the skills shortages and setting workplace good practice. In addition, it will provide a powerful incentive for individuals to develop their own personal portfolios of competence.”

He continued by explaining: “Initially the project will cover mainly those who are involved with the fitting, inspection, examination and integrity of safety-critical bolted joints and assemblies. However, we anticipate that the concept and principles which underpin the Initiative will be adopted in a much wider range of engineering and manufacturing applications.”

How will it work?

The essence of the Maudslay Initiative is simple: to link certified and verifiable competence in the workforce with the 'risk", measured on a ‘scale of consequence’ that relates to the ‘criticality’ of an engineering product, asset, component or system. In other words, the more critical a product, asset or system is, and thus the more severe the consequences if it goes wrong, the higher the competence required to design, install, operate, maintain, inspect, repair or decommission it.

Thus, for example, bolted connections on high-pressure pipework in a chemical process plant might be denoted as a ‘high’ consequence asset - if there was a fault with the bolted connection, the consequences could be serious, with the potential for substantial damage and injury or loss of life and the possible additional hazard of severe environmental impact. Thus the individuals involved with bolted assemblies in pipework, from design to installation, operation and maintenance, would be required to have, or be supervised by someone with, a ‘high’ level of competence.

A key task for the Maudslay Initiative will therefore be to determine the range that will apply to the scales of consequence, such that all products, assets or systems having the same Level of Consequence can be regarded as having equivalent requirements for competence.

Within the Maudslay Initiative it is planned that there will be a number of sector-specific ‘Maudslay Groups’, comprising mostly employer representatives. Each Group will address the issues of competence and consequence requirements for its particular sector and will, by mutual agreement, decide on the levels of consequence to be ascribed to identified products, assets and systems; and then to determine the level of competency that will be required of anyone working with those products, assets or systems.

The individual’s competence will need to be verified and registered – for instance through existing National Vocational and Scottish Vocational Qualification schemes, or recognised certification schemes which meet the Maudslay Initiative criteria. It is also planned that there will be an independent, voluntary database of competence, in which details such as academic achievements, experience and workplace competence certification can be recorded. Such a database would provide the means for employers to ensure that individuals have the appropriate and current qualifications and competencies required for a particular task or job role specific for a particular industry.

Why will it work?

“It’s simple”, claims Ward. “It will be in the interests of employers to participate because we believe that eventually membership of the Initiative will come to be regarded as a form of ‘holistic certification’ for an engineering or manufacturing company. By definition, any organization subscribing will be seen to be signing up to the underpinning philosophy of the Initiative: that no-one should be permitted to work on a safety-critical engineering product, asset or system, or supervise the work of others, without possession of the recognised level of appropriate competence to do so. The Initiative will also take into consideration issues of ethics, the environmental and national and regional needs.

The pilot project

With support from SSDA and Proskills, pilot projects are planned to start shortly, primarily involving representatives from hazardous industries such as oil and gas exploration, petrochemical processing and mining and quarrying and associated contractors. These will be used to identify the practical issues relating to implementation of the Maudslay Initiative and then to develop prototype schemes to develop Scales of Consequence and link these with appropriate competence levels.

“This is the start of what will be a major undertaking”, says Feest. “We can see it taking between 5 and 10 years to become fully established across all of the major sectors of engineering and manufacturing in the UK. Given the global nature of these industries, we can anticipate that the concept of the Maudslay Initiative will spread into the rest of the world as the benefits and rewards of implementing its principles become apparent.”

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