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Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training

Reflections:  By Cristina Ruscitto, Senior Researcher

We are conducting a study of the sleep and fatigue of offshore workers in the North Sea in the next few months. As a result, I am travelling offshore to find out more about what work and life are like on oil/gas platforms before we do the data collection. However, before I could travel offshore by helicopter and stay on a platform, I needed to do a survival course on how to deal with emergencies offshore (fire and evacuation) and how to escape from a helicopter following a ditching.

These are my reflections:

Day 1 – firefighting and self-rescue: 

We were a group of 4 ladies and 12 men from different backgrounds/roles. During the morning, we learnt about the main offshore hazards, hazard consequences and safety regulations. All very interesting and provided a lot of context to offshore working. Our knowledge was tested through a multiple choice quiz, which I passed!

Firefighting

During the afternoon, we did firefighting and self-rescue exercises. I am used to firefighting procedures as I used to work as cabin crew for BA and we had annual refresher courses on these. However, the firefighting at the academy was slightly more hard core in comparison:

We dealt with different types of fire which were much bigger in size… Further, we wore the full protective clothing: heavy jacket, boots, gloves, glasses, hard hat. As it was a hot day and we got close to the fire we had to extinguish, we all got very hot indeed!

Self-rescue

We entered a chamber filled with ‘disco’ smoke wearing a smoke hood (picture).  First, we went in on our own and used techniques to find our way out in low visibility. We then went in the chamber as a group of four and worked together to escape in completely obscured visibility. The latter exercise was more challenging but the teamwork made it easier.

Overall, an enjoyable and informative day – lovely group and trainers.

Picture 1 Left: Smoke Chamber. Picture 2 Right:Wearing a smoke hood before entering a smoke-filled chamber.

 

Day 2 – Sea survival and emergency first aid:

Again, the emergency first aid part of the day was OK because of my previous role as crew but it was good to refresh those skills as you never know when you may need them.

During the morning we learnt all about the different ways in which you can evacuate from a platform. In the afternoon, we then put some of these into practice.

  1. We went down an escape chute like the one in Picture 3. In real life they can be as long as 18/20 meters but the training one was 7 meters’ long and we landed onto a padded surface on land rather than a life raft on sea. We had two rounds of practice – the second one was more proficient.
  1. We boarded a totally enclosed motor propelled survival craft while on the pier and we were then lowered and released onto the sea a few meters down. It was good to do the full exercise to get a feeling of what an evacuation is like. Being lowered down onto the sea was a bit unnerving, however.

Picture 3: Escape chute.

Day 3 – Helicopter ditching procedure (theory and practice)

The practical was by far the most challenging part of the 3-day course. For me, it was the most physically challenging thing I have ever done.  The day slowly built up to the ‘dunker’ exercise in the pool – escape from a simulator that was rolled 180 degrees underwater.

Lifejacket and Compresses Air Emergency Breathing System (CA-EBS)

First, we got into our helicopter travelling suit and donned the life jacket with CA-EBS (Below).

Picture 4: using the CA-EBS.

We did five exercises with different variations around:

  • Operating the CA-EBS out of water (Picture 4). Then while in the pool, but out of water, before going in water for three breaths. You breathe through a mouth piece and clips plug your nose in water.
  • Operating the CA-EBS in water so we had to let the trapped water in our mouthpiece naturally with a big exhale or by pressing the purge button. We tried both ways then, underwater holding a metal bar, we walked the shallow side of the pool.

Dunker

  • In teams of four, we practised the brace position, freeing an exit by removing the plastic cover, releasing our full harness while water got to our lap
  • In teams of four, we did the above and, holding our breath, we escaped the dunker while at an angle underwater
  • In teams of two, while holding our breath, we escaped the capsized dunker underwater through the designated exit

Sea survival – Boarding a life raft and rescue

We practised entering a life raft and being winched from it.

Needless to say every single exercise presented some difficulties. My day was made worse by bouts of vomiting in between exercises. I started feeling sick after operating the EBS out of water, so virtually at the start of the practical. My suit was very tight at the neck so I felt constricted and the nerves didn’t help. At one point the trainers suggested I should stop because I was really poorly. I don’t know how I made it but I did. Everybody helped with encouraging words and in the end I completed the day! Phew!