Embracing the New Normal: Extended Site Placements

Apr 21, 2020 1:18:39 PM


As part of our series on Embracing the New Normal, we’ve been exploring how asset-intensive industries are changing their operating practices.  In this article, we look at the changes in rostering practices. 

In the present circumstances, maintaining continuity of operation is more difficult than ever.  Border closures and extended quarantine periods make it difficult to move people around the country.  In some cases, it’s possible to reconfigure jobs so that they can be performed remotely.  However, for many jobs in asset-intensive industries, it’s essential for workers to be physically present on site.  

To resolve these difficulties, many sites – both FIFO and residential – are moving to either extended rosters or relocating workers and their families for periods of up to several months.  However, that can throw up problems of its own – many workers are unable or unwilling to stay on site for extended periods, or to relocate to a remote location.  The result is a shortage of available people – leaving work undone – or an environment of inconsistency and confusion within the workforce, leading to a possible reduction in work quality. 

During Bluefield’s recent quarterly planning workshop, we asked our workforce about the implications of these changing rosters.  To our surprise, although some of our team members have young families or other important commitments, others indicated that their personal circumstances would allow them to spend several months on site to temporarily fill a role if that’s what a client asked.  Their experiences were quite varied, covering roles such as: 

  • Maintenance managers and superintendents; 
  • Reliability engineers; 
  • Mechanical and electrical engineers; 
  • Project and shutdown managers; and. 
  • Statutory roles such as Electrical Engineering Managers or Statutory Mechanical Engineers 

One of the main reasons that some team members were comfortable with the idea of extended site placements is the fact that Bluefield emphasizes that when we send someone to site, they don’t go alone.  We have more than 90 people in our team around Australia, Chile, Canada and Finland, and all of us are connected from our home offices to provide technical or other support to our team on site.  Across our team, we have experience in virtually every aspect of asset management, so our willingness to share this expertise with each other, and formalise it through the development of in-house toolkits, is essential to our approach to adding value to clients. 

Temporary site roles, even if they’re several months in length, can still pose problems for business continuity when the incumbent returns to site, or a permanent replacement is appointed.  We’ve learned over the years that frequent, open and honest communication is critical to maintaining continuity.  One of our core requirements as a business is weekly reporting to clients – even if they sometimes don’t necessarily want them – because we’ve learned that formalised communication protects our clients’ interests over and above anything else.  Our project close-out process, involving a detailed handover, is also invaluable in helping both the client maintain continuity, and Bluefield to learn and improve as a business. 

To learn more about our approach to specialised staffing solutions and extended site placements in these changing conditions, and to contact us, click here.