Seven keys to offshore wind health and safety
Guest post by Ben Scholes, CEO and co-founder of Papertrail.
Nobody who has worked in an offshore environment would treat the health and safety risks lightly. And so far, the accident rate seen in offshore wind has been mercifully low. But that is no reason for complacency.
As the industry moves to ever-larger turbines, sited further offshore, and increasingly featuring new design features such as floating platforms, the potential health and safety risks are being multiplied.
How do you keep a handle on health and safety while at the same time striving for the lowest possible cost of construction and operations? Here are seven strategies to bear in mind.
- Get all the people on your project trained to a common standard
With so many teams, tasks and responsibilities cropping up in the construction and operation of offshore wind, it can be hard to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to health and safety.
Yet this is probably the single most important thing you can do to minimise the risk of accidents. If everyone has the same training then you can help eliminate the chances of omissions and misunderstandings.
- Stay tuned to the latest health and safety practices
The offshore wind industry is evolving rapidly, and with it so are the requirements for health and safety.
One example: helicopter accident training has not historically been a major requirement for offshore wind operators, but it is becoming more important for far-offshore projects. Siemens is among the providers now offering helicopter underwater escape training.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities
This is time-honoured advice for many aspects of offshore wind construction and operations, and is critical too for health and safety.
Knowing who is responsible for safety procedures and audits, or who is in charge in the event of an accident, can make a critical difference to the likelihood of a minor incident turning into a major disaster.
- Be aware of specific guidelines for offshore wind
Good practice guidelines from organisations such as the G+ Global Offshore Wind Health & Safety Organisation aren’t just there for the sake of it.
G+ provides guidelines on two types of specific risk that are not usually found together in other industries: working at height in the offshore industry, and the safe management of small service vessels. Ignore them at your peril.
- Distinguish between construction and operation risks
Construction tasks are vastly different from those involved in day-to-day operations—and so are the risks. In the build phase, the potential for major accidents is much higher, which tends to result in heightened safety awareness and compliance.
During operations, the likelihood of a serious incident decreases. But that can mean safety standards might slip, so you need to adjust your training and inspection processes accordingly.
- Develop opportunities for knowledge transfer
One aspect of offshore wind health and safety that rarely gets mentioned is that it still has much to learn from allied sectors such as oil and gas. But in many parts of Europe the oil and gas industry is in decline, with most seasoned experts nearing retirement age.
Failing to promote health and safety knowledge transfer between oil and gas operators and wind farm teams could be a lost opportunity. Have you thought about recruiting a gas sector safety expert, for example? If so, you need to do it while they are still around.
- Streamline health and safety record keeping
Keeping up-to-date health and safety paperwork may not be glamorous, but it’s essential not just to prevent accidents but also to minimise disruption if an incident does occur.
Ideally, you should adopt systems that can incorporate health and safety inspection results from the field and are easy to access anywhere, at any time.
The right system should also be able to take care of certificate management, training records, safety-related task management and other duties. At Papertrail, we are seeking to drive up industry standards and so have published a wind industry white paper.
We have also created systems designed to help you keep accurate records and demonstrate compliance for equipment inspections and audits. But no matter how you manage these issues, the emphasis must be on what is best for your staff.
Nobody should have to send a loved one to work worrying that they won’t come home. The offshore wind industry has a good record so far. And we want to keep it that way.