Special Challenges in Offshore Safety Training
/ For the Transmission and Distribution Industry /
COMPARED TO OTHER INDUSTRY BRANCHES, OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY IS STILL A RELATIVELY YOUNG INDUSTRY. WHILE GERMANY GAINED A LOT OF EXPERIENCE IN THE USE OF ONSHORE WIND DURING THE PAST 20 YEARS, THE TRAINING SYSTEMS FOR STAFF WORKING ON OFFSHORE WIND FARMS WERE BASED ON NATIONAL REGULATIONS FOR ONSHORE TEAMS FOR A LONG TIME. HOWEVER, THIS IGNORED THE FACT, THAT WORKING CONDITIONS OFFSHORE DIFFER VASTLY FROM THOSE IN ONSHORE WIND.
Wind farms built in deep water bring challenging logistics and different requirements when it comes to safety training. In case of an accident, it can take hours for emergency services to reach any casualties in an offshore wind farm – and that is only if weather permits them to move out at all. Workers on offshore wind farms therefore need a deeper understanding of and training in first aid than workers in onshore wind, where an ambulance is only a phone call away and the main challenge is to rescue someone from inside the turbine. Deutsche WindGuard Offshore is an experienced training provider and has been involved in the process of developing standards for the offshore wind industry since the early beginnings. Some parts of the training program could be easily adapted from the requirements for onshore wind personnel. An example for this would be trainings in first aid, which is obligatory for onshore and offshore employees. However, offshore wind workers often require additional in-depth training to be prepared for the higher risk potential offshore. The Global Wind Organization (GWO), the standardization body responsible for the development and certification of internationally harmonized training standards for the wind industry, just published two new standards that consider the special challenges of rescue operations in remote areas. One standard belongs to the category first aid, the second one deals with Working at Heights.
The first is the new Enhanced first training, participants learn how to inserting a laryngeal tube and work with doctors over teleconsultation units. The second is called Advanced Rescue. This training concentrates on the confined spaces in wind turbines and offshore structures and how to rescue casualties from there. Both trainings will soon be implemented into the training schedule at Deutsche WindGuard’s Training Centre.
The main difference between onshore and offshore safety training, is of course the water. Working in the harsh elements of the sea determines a completely different set of risks and dangers. Therefore, Sea Survival trainings are mandatory for offshore wind personnel. Here, the participants learn how to evacuate from boat or turbine into the water, but also preventing to fall into the sea while transferring from vessel to dock and vice versa. They are also taught techniques how to survive as long as possible should they end up in the water after all.
Profiting from the experience of the oil – and gas industry, GWO adapted the trainings for the requirements of the wind industry. Just like the industry, the standard is continuously evolving. In the latest installment of the standard, the focus has been further shifted from theory to practice, leading to a ratio from now 18% to 82% scenario based training.
“For us as a training provider, the Sea Survival training is always special”, says Alexander Treichel, Head of safety training at WindGuard Safety training in Elsfleth. “Especially the final scenario in every module is intense for the participants. We switch off the lights and turn on wind, waves and lightning. This experience is really challenging for some participants. But we believe that training is more effective, if you teach participants under realistic circumstances. What use is it to train the transfer from vessel to turbine in a swimming pool without waves? Accidents usually happen in bad weather. So that’s what we have to prepare our participants for.”
With four different wave types, thunder, lightning, a wind, rain and helicopter downwash simulator, the pool at the training facility in Elsfleth, Germany, is the perfect playground for simulating worst case scenarios. But even if the training scenarios look scarily realistic, the participants’ safety is never in danger. “Safety always comes first”, confirms Alexander Treichel, “Our trainers regularly participate in emergency trainings, so we are prepared if something should go wrong during training and a participant needs rescuing.”
Alexander Treichel and his team in Elsfleth are continuously working on improving the training experience and creating new fields of operation. “We are always open to new developments and try to anticipate the needs of our customers. We listen to their problems and try to offer the solutions”, explains Alexander Treichel, “One result is setting up a new website with an online booking portal. Another is developing an eLearning tool so offshore workers can complete some of their training from the ships. This way, the long waiting periods due to bad weather can be spent more productively.”
While the main business is providing trainings for the wind industry, WindGuard Safety Training is also constantly expanding their operation into other industries and branches. The latest example for this is their cooperation with diving insurance company Aquamed. “We’ve started offering so called experience days for amateur-divers”, explains Alexander Treichel, “So far the success has exceeded our expectations by far. But it proves that there are other industries and target groups that can profit from our experience and know-how. And it is exciting for us to work with totally different fields of work and give our training new and different facets.”