Background Checks for Oil and Gas: Screening Best Practices


oil fig by river to represent best background checks for oil and gas

The energy sector, particularly the oil and gas industry, plays a crucial role in powering economies worldwide. According to employment and labour data by Careers in Energy, the oil and gas sector directly employs 184,000 people in Canada. In the United States, it’s over 358,000 according to the Department of Energy.

With high-demand roles in hazardous environments, ensuring safety, security, and compliance with industry regulations is important. This means implementing comprehensive background screening processes tailored to the unique needs of skilled roles in the energy sector is essential. 

In this blog post, we explore the importance of background checks for oil and gas and outline employee screening best practices to mitigate risks and safeguard operations.

Why Background Checks for Oil and Gas Industry Matter

The oil and gas industry operates in complex and high-risk environments, making comprehensive background checks a necessity. From drilling operations to transportation logistics, numerous roles within this industry require specialized skills and qualifications. Conducting thorough background checks for oil and gas helps mitigate potential risks associated with hiring individuals for critical positions, such as:

  1. Safety: Safety is a top priority in the oil and gas industry due to the inherently hazardous nature of the work environment. Background checks for oil and gas can identify candidates with a history of criminal negligence, safety violations, or drug use, helping companies maintain a safe workplace for employees and contractors.
  1. Security: Protecting sensitive assets and infrastructure is essential in the energy sector. Employee screening can help uncover any criminal history, including past incidents of theft, fraud, or vandalism, which could pose security threats to oil and gas facilities or operations.
  1. Regulatory Compliance: The oil and gas industry is subject to strict regulatory requirements, including background screening mandates to ensure compliance with industry standards and legal obligations. Employers must verify that candidates possess the necessary licences, certifications, and qualifications to perform their roles safely and effectively.

5 Trends Shaping Background Checks for Oil and Gas in 2024

In addition to the driving factors cited above, the following five trends are shaping the landscape of background checks for oil and gas. They are:

  1. Increased regulatory scrutiny
  2. Focus on safety and risk management
  3. Emphasis on cybersecurity
  4. Global talent acquisition
  5. Use of advanced screening technologies and artificial intelligence (AI)

Understanding these trends and proactively addressing them is crucial for companies to hire the best talent and maintain safety, security, and regulatory compliance in the industry. 

Increased Regulatory Scrutiny

Regulatory agencies are imposing stricter guidelines and standards on background screening processes to ensure safety and compliance in the oil and gas industry. A study by the American Petroleum Institute (API) found that regulatory violations in the oil and gas sector related to safety and environmental standards have increased by 22% over the past decade, underscoring the need for stringent compliance measures in background screening processes.

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations set forth safety standards and requirements for workplace safety in various industries in the United States, including oil and gas. Specifically for the oil and gas industry, OSHA has developed regulations such as the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard (29 CFR 1910.119), which focuses on the management of hazards associated with processes involving highly hazardous chemicals, including those used in oil and gas operations. In Canada, occupational health and safety regulations for the oil and gas sector vary by province or territory, as labour regulations are primarily under provincial or territorial jurisdiction. For example, in Alberta, the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and regulations establish safety standards and requirements for workplaces, including those in the oil and gas industry.

In addition to adhering to these standards, your company should stay updated on relevant regulations and standards governing background checks in the energy sector. This means investing in robust compliance management systems and working with trusted employee screening vendors who understand industry-specific requirements. As a baseline, look for vendors that cite compliance with federal regulations such as the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA),  Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Focus on Safety and Risk Management

With the emphasis on workplace safety, oil and gas companies are placing greater importance on screening candidates for roles involving high-risk activities, such as drilling, transportation, and refinery operations.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the oil and gas extraction industry reported a total recordable injury rate (TRIR) of 0.5 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2022, highlighting the value of screening candidates rigorously to ensure they have the right skills, training, and qualifications to minimize workplace accidents and injuries. This rate is much lower than other industries such as agriculture, farming, forestry, fishing, and mining.

Your company’s needs will vary based on the size and scale of your operations and the roles you hire for, but we generally recommend employers hiring in the skilled trades and labour conduct comprehensive background checks that include criminal record checks, driving records, verification of safety training and certifications (this is a big one), and possibly drug and alcohol screening. Implementing stringent safety protocols and ongoing training programs can further mitigate safety risks. Your company may even want to consider a continuous monitoring program.

Continuous Monitoring in Background Screening

Continuous monitoring program background checks, also known as continuous screening or ongoing monitoring, refer to a proactive approach to background checks that goes beyond the traditional one-time pre-employment screening. Instead of conducting background checks only during the initial hiring process, continuous monitoring programs involve regularly and periodically rechecking employees’ backgrounds throughout their tenure with a company.

This continuous monitoring helps organizations stay updated on any changes in their employees’ criminal records, licence status, or other relevant information that could affect their suitability for their current role. By implementing continuous monitoring programs, oil and gas companies can mitigate potential risks, ensure compliance with industry regulations, and maintain a safe and secure work environment. 

Continuous monitoring programs typically involve the use of automated systems that periodically search public records and databases for any new information relevant to an employee’s background. When a potential issue is identified, the employer is notified promptly so that appropriate action can be taken, such as conducting a more thorough investigation or reassessing the employee’s suitability for their position.

Overall, continuous monitoring programs offer organizations a proactive approach to managing risk and maintaining a safe workplace by staying vigilant about changes in employees’ backgrounds over time.

Emphasis on Cybersecurity

The Global Risks Report 2023 by the World Economic Forum identified cyberattacks on critical infrastructures as one of the top threats facing society. As digitalization increases in the oil and gas sector, cybersecurity threats have become a significant concern. In response, employee background screening has evolved to include financial checks and past incidents of cybercrime and fraud.

If your company isn’t integrating cybersecurity screening into the background check processes, verifying candidates’ knowledge of cybersecurity protocols, and assessing their integrity and trustworthiness in handling sensitive information then you could be at risk. Investing in cybersecurity training and awareness programs for employees as part of SOC 2 or ISO 20071 certifications or otherwise is also essential.

Global Talent Acquisition

The oil and gas industry often relies on a global workforce, leading to challenges in verifying international credentials and conducting cross-border background checks. Research from Deloitte indicates that nearly 60% of oil and gas executives consider the availability of skilled talent as a significant challenge, with cross-border talent acquisition presenting additional complexities related to legal and cultural differences.

Companies should partner with screening providers with global capabilities and expertise in navigating international regulations and cultural nuances. Implementing standardized screening processes across borders and leveraging technology for remote verification can streamline the international hiring process while ensuring compliance. (Here’s more information on international background checks by Certn.)

Use of Advanced Screening Technologies

Innovations in technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are revolutionizing background screening by enabling faster and more accurate vetting processes. A research study by Zippia found that less than half of all companies (45%) are using AI in the hiring process, though the number is larger among recruiters and Fortune 500 companies. 65% of recruiters and 99% of Fortune 500 companies are using AI for the hiring process.

We’re biased, but we think all companies should embrace advanced screening technologies to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their background check programs. In fact, Certn clients reduce their hiring times by up to 80% with our technology.

oil rig by river to represent best background checks for oil and gas employees

Best Practices for Background Screening in the Oil and Gas Industry

To enhance safety, security, and regulatory compliance, companies should adopt the following best practices checks when structuring their employee screening programs and conducting background checks for oil and gas:

Comprehensive Criminal Background Checks: Conduct thorough criminal background checks at the local, state/provincial, and federal levels to identify any past criminal convictions or offences that may disqualify candidates from employment in safety-sensitive roles.

Verification of Credentials and Qualifications: Verify the authenticity of candidates’ educational credentials, professional licences, certifications, and specialized training relevant to the oil and gas industry. This helps ensure that individuals possess the requisite skills and qualifications for their roles. In this blog post, we cover how verifications stop application fraud.

Past Employment Verification: Confirm the accuracy of candidates’ work history, including previous employment dates, job titles, and responsibilities. Past employment verification can uncover discrepancies or red flags that may indicate dishonesty or untrustworthiness. Safety record checks paired with a comprehensive review of past employment history can offer insights into an applicant’s professional behaviour and alignment with the industry’s demands.

Driver’s Records Checks: Driver abstracts are a powerful tool that provides insights into an applicant’s driving history.A clean driving record reflects responsibility and mitigates potential risks, especially in roles involving frequent travel and use of a company’s vehicle.

Adverse Media Screening: Adverse media screening involves the systematic monitoring and analysis of news sources, publications, and online content to identify any adverse information or negative news related to individuals or entities. This process helps organizations assess reputational risks associated with potential business employees.

Public Records Searches: Public record searches involve accessing and reviewing official records and documents maintained by governmental agencies, courts, or other public repositories that may not show up in a criminal record check. These records provide valuable information about individuals, including legal history, financial records, property ownership, licences, and more.

Drug and Alcohol Screening: Implement pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing programs to ensure that candidates and employees adhere to strict substance abuse policies, particularly for positions involving operating heavy machinery or handling hazardous materials.

Certn – Your Partner for Background Checks for Oil and Gas

Whether you manage hiring for a multinational energy company or a contracting firm responsible for providing employees to sites, we can help you hire qualified oil and gas workers quickly. As a trusted partner in pre-employment screening, we offer products and services that align with the unique compliance needs of your industry. Our online background check platform prioritizes mobile use and offers instant identity verification, making it easy for candidates to complete pre-employment screening and get to work. Our services can also seamlessly integrate into your existing system, streamlining the process.

Thorough background checks help ensure that potential hires have the necessary training and experience and that they can be trusted with confidential information. Comprehensive employee screening reveals more than criminal history; checks also help uncover an applicant’s ethical standing, a factor that is critical for an industry with national security risks.

Failing to conduct background checks for oil and gas can put operations at risk and could also expose your organization to legal repercussions and damage its reputation. Certn’s oil and gas background checks ensure both compliance with legal standards and the ability to cultivate a workforce with a commitment to both safety and integrity. Book a demo with one of our screening experts to learn more about how we can help.