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The Hazards of Working Offshore and At Height

Posted: 22/10/2020

Categories: Work at Height, Offshore Wind & Renewables

Offshore work is fraught with hazards, and many of the personnel working on offshore wind platforms perform tasks that carry a high risk.

With a reported 1,200 applicants for wind turbine positions with Orsted during the latest recruitment drive, the need to provide vital safety training and include team members who hold the competencies to deliver offshore response is more important than ever.

According to Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) latest figures, falls from height are a leading cause of injury amongst offshore workers, and have led to the deaths of two workers in the past ten years.

Under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, employers must protect employees by ensuring all projects are properly planned and supervised and are carried out by competent people, trained to the agreed industry standards and supplied with the appropriate equipment.

Some of the Perils

When any industry is seeking to address potential working at height hazards, there is a hierarchy of controls that employers need to follow. There are many ways you can help reduce or prevent the potential for injury occurring when your offshore teams are working at height. Some ideas are highlighted below. 

The first step is to try to avoid the risks altogether, by engineering innovating solutions to eliminate the need to work from height in the first place. However, there are routine tasks, for example, maintenance or repair, where personnel have little choice, and it is very unlikely in an offshore wind environment to eliminate working at height due to the nature of the infrastructure itself.

In which case, the next step in the hierarchy would be to consider ways of preventing falls from a height while working. The initial way of doing this is to implement preventative measures, or ‘collective’ measures as the HSE refers to them. This includes guardrails and toe boards, which must meet the required standards for the specific situation.

The second method is the use of personal fall prevention equipment (PFPE), such as restraint lanyards, which are designed to prevent the user from being able to manoeuvre in any area where there is a risk of falling, as well as work positioning lanyards, which, when used in conjunction with a harness with a belt, allow the user to work securely and comfortably while keeping both hands free.

Only when prevention methods have been exhausted should employers look at mitigation methods such as personal fall arrest equipment, which would limit the impact of a fall, which would possibly require a rescue/retrieval solution.

There needs to be a requirement for stringent inspection and maintenance regimes for PFPE. Equipment should be checked before every use, by the worker using it, who would require training in equipment familiarisation and understand what to look for. Worn or damaged PFPE should be scrapped and replaced immediately.

A vital key area for consideration is training, which would also need to be tailored to a worker’s needs, area of work and the task to be undertaken.

Work at Height Regulations 2005

Under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, employers must ensure that everyone involved in working at height is competent, or, if being trained, is supervised by a competent person. This includes competency in the organisation, planning, supervision and the supply and maintenance of equipment.

The regulations also stipulate that where other precautions do not entirely eliminate the risk of a fall occurring, those who will be working at height must be properly trained in how to avoid falling, and how to avoid or minimise injury to themselves should they fall.

If you would like to further discuss how a standby rescue team can deliver an effective response to an emergency or incident offshore, please get in touch with us today.