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Case Study – Sabre Safety

Sabre Safety is a specialist safety company and a world expert in hydrogen sulfide (H2S) services.  It also deals with other noxious and narcotic gases such as benzene and methane. Headquartered in Scotland, the company is active all over the world and has offices in Scotland, Italy and Canada, employing over 160 people in total.

Sabre provides equipment, expertise and technical training to ensure a safe working environment by dealing with the risk of H2S, which is a gas that can kill even at low concentrations and is one of the leading causes of fatalities among Oil & Gas workers.  Sabre also offers design and engineering services, as well as contingency planning for its clients – an integral part of operations.


Designing and building bespoke breathing air systems

The company designs, builds and maintains breathing air systems that exceed all required regulations and manufacturers’ recommendations, both in terms of air-supply duration and flow-rate.  The focus is on exceeding standards rather than just meeting them: this reflects the need to provide the highest level of protection in view of the risks encountered.

Breathing air systems, provided for use on- and offshore, include everything from containerised breathing air cascade systems, capable of supplying up to 60 man-hours of air supply without the need for recharging, to systems designed for restricted spaces.  Air supply lines come in the form of a full air distribution system which delivers air to the essential areas on the drill-site or offshore installation.  In addition to the breathing systems, Sabre Safety supplies gas detection equipment, training clients’ staff in the use of such equipment too.

The above offering is complemented by fire and safety services and staff drawn from the fire and mines rescue services.  The company’s core experience means that it is well qualified for this work.   It can provide full annual servicing and maintenance of deluge systems and pressure relief valves (PRVs), which have to be certified annually, and can supply and service fire-suppressant systems.


Accreditation is at the heart of business

As a specialist supplier of safety equipment and expertise, Sabre Safety works with major oil and gas corporations all over the world, often in partnership with other suppliers as part of a tightly integrated team.  Accreditation is a core part of these relationships: quite simply, without the same accreditations as its clients, Sabre Safety would not be able to bid for and carry out contracts with them.  Reaching the standards, and then maintaining them, has been central to the establishment and development of the company.  In other words, there would be no business without accreditation.

On country-specific contracts, Sabre often works directly with major corporations.  It understands international logistics and can get containers and expert personnel to hard-to-reach places such as the Congo and Chad, dealing with all conformance issues along the way. This is vital: documentation has to be rigorous or equipment will simply not arrive on site.


Accreditation and scopes

The company holds numerous accreditations and certifications: Oil & Gas is an industry where this is a prerequisite.  Suppliers to major corporations have to be able to demonstrate the compliance and robustness of their quality management systems.  Sabre is OPITO accredited (http://uk.opito.com/about-us/opito-purpose) – all of Sabre’s services are independently and externally assessed as part of this.

ISO9001 is at the heart of Sabre’s integrated management system which ensures that all personnel are working to the same standards and procedures, using the same documentation to progress work and create a precise and consistent audit trail.  The standard is applied by Sabre to provide a continual check on individual competency and it informs all staff appraisal and development.  ISO9001 is also applied to all of Sabre’s suppliers to ensure that product sales and rentals meet the company’s standards.  This represents a key part of the company’s credentials for clients and its commitment to continuous improvement.

The ISO14001 standard demonstrates that Sabre is continually looking to reduce its carbon footprint.  It has its own in-house recycling procedures and trains staff in recycling, extending this to recycling and waste reduction at home.  The company has recently expanded this aspect of its work by getting involved in community gardening at a local children’s nursery in Fife as part of the NHS Healthy Working Lives scheme.

Health and Safety is key to Sabre’s work and recognised in the OHSAS18001 accreditation.  It is seen as a central part of protecting employees, clients and, equally importantly, third parties who may come into contact with Sabre’s products and services.  Job safety is at the heart of Sabre’s approach in an industry where mistakes can be immediately fatal.  By way of illustration, and

in terms of toxicity, an H2S dose of 500 – 700 PPM will cause loss of consciousness and death within 30 minutes to 1 hour.  A dose of 1,000 PPM (the equivalent of one tenth of 1%) will cause immediate unconsciousness and death within a few minutes – even if the casualty is removed to fresh air.


SQA accredited – the only CVQ accredited course for H2S safety supervisor training

Sabre does not just conform to standards: it has been active in developing new international standards.

The nature of H2S training around the world is highly variable.  Major corporations have their own internally accredited training regimes in place, but many smaller operators run less formalised courses.  Across the board though, they all have one thing in common – none is part of a universally quality assured and certificated standard by an external qualifications authority.

The need for an external and unifying system of verification has led Sabre Safety to work with the world-renowned Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to establish a course for H2S safety supervisors that, for the first time, sets an independent and internationally recognised standard.  The H2S Safety Supervisor Customised Vocational Qualification (CVQ) programme allows Sabre Safety to benchmark performance.  As an SQA-approved training centre, Sabre Safety is subject to the same external verification, undergoing a formal inspection every 9 months by an external verifier.

The H2S Safety Supervisor CVQ Programme took around 1.5 years to develop with SQA, meeting the Authority’s stringent evidential and procedural requirements.  The course has two exit levels: Level 1 (H2S Safety Supervisor) and Level 2 (H2S Senior Safety Supervisor).  To date some 14 technicians have graduated from the course, and all other technicians are working towards the qualification.  Each of them will have a qualification that is not only internationally recognised, but which gives each of them greater career opportunity within the company and within the industry.

The award has been credit rated by the SQA at Level 7 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) with 61 credit points.  Technicians are subject to ongoing competence assessment and periodic re-training: the qualification is a standard that has to be evidentially maintained.


Training that links to operational requirements

All aspects of the CVQ programme operate under the ISO9001-certified Integrated Management System.  Crucially, as a customised vocational award, assessments can take place in the workplace and therefore out of the classroom environment, linking into operational requirements and delivery of services – a major advantage for clients whose staff can complete the training on site.  The CVQ covers all areas of an H2S Safety Supervisor’s responsibilities, including standard operating procedures, training and contingency planning, with an emphasis on health, safety and environmental matters throughout.

All assessments are carried out according to a formal assessment plan and criteria as defined by a qualified assessor in the unit of competence; all assessments contain direct observation by assessors.


Offering clients a single focus

The ability to service numerous safety systems and provide all associated training to accredited standards gives Sabre Safety a distinct and differentiated position in the marketplace: oil production companies like the focus of having one safety and training supplier that can also go in and ‘swap out’ equipment.  In addition, Sabre Safety can act as a supply chain manager, sourcing items for customers and acting as a procurement department.  In terms of the CVQ, clients get the benefit of training delivered to stringent external accreditation and given by staff who have direct and current experience of H2S environments.

As well as dealing with hazards around production, Sabre Safety’s services are equally necessary for decommissioning.  There are decades of such decommissioning work in the North Sea alone.


More effective – more profitable.

Accreditation makes Sabre and its clients more effective and more profitable because it allows work to be done in the safest and most efficient way.  Sabre uses its own CVQ for example to identify the skill levels of its employees and provide a benchmark for new employees.  The CVQ provides a competency database of all employees, allowing the company to match employees precisely to its clients’ requirements.  This is how all accreditation standards are applied across the business.  Accreditation informs everything that Sabre Safety does.