With the increase of global energy offshore projects comes the increase in priority of ensuring safety measures comply with HSE regulations and expected industry standards. The focus should not only be on the welfare of personnel, site safety and accident prevention, but also on how to effectively deal with an incident after the fact.
According to BloombergNEF (BNEF), the worldwide investment in renewable energy in 2019 hit a record $282.2 billion, with $29.9 billion in offshore wind, an increase of 19 per cent on 2018. 100 new offshore projects were authorised in 2019, compared to a mere 43 in 2015.
The offshore wind investments in 2019 counted for 8 per cent of all new global investments in clean energy and are expected to significantly increase to an estimated $500 billion by 2030. As these numbers grow, the importance of health and safety becomes an issue, especially when concerned with the unique work environments involved in offshore wind.
An increase in the workforce also increases the human error component when considering the risks involved, which can often be neglected.
Tim Southam, a recognised authority in the field of human factors engineering (HFE), told Energy Voice “Ship collision is still the most common type of maritime accident.
“With the increasing adoption of sophisticated marine technology, there is pressure on operators to adopt new technologies before fully understanding their complexities and requirements for safe integration on the navigation bridge.”
Specific offshore safety issues
In the offshore oil industry, often associated with longer-serving, more experienced workers, the severity of accidents has proven to be greater than those on onshore facilities. One of the primary cause of death in offshore oil rigs is aircraft and water vehicle accidents, which can directly translate to the offshore wind industry.
Vehicle accidents onshore can be thought of as easier to prevent by lowering speed limits and prohibiting vehicles from entering certain areas. Also, personnel involved in onshore accidents do not have the same escape and rescue issues involved in offshore vehicle incidents, increasing the chance of more personnel involved in fatalities.
There have been plenty of frightening examples of offshore disasters in the past which adequately prove the necessity for offshore safety training.
Methods for offshore accident prevention
Two of the primary causes of offshore accidents and disasters are cost-cutting and inadequate training. While the risks involved are vastly different due to the differences in specific industries between offshore wind and oil, studies have shown that such disasters as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion could have been prevented if safety issues had been put first.
Meeting regulations, despite the costs
As technology advances, which within the offshore wind sector it will continue to do, regulations will change to meet the circumstances, and companies must meet these new regulations.
Higher regulatory standards often require investment in personnel, training, and equipment.
Companies may decide it will cost too much money to meet regulations. Refurbishing of equipment that could be inadequate for the work involved is often preferred over-investing in new, and equipment qualification and testing become less common. But the effects this can have on safety make it an unacceptable choice for simply cost-cutting.
As soon as work commences, or prior to, emergency response and safety training should address unsafe work practices and understanding what to do should an accident or emergency occur. It is vital that personnel feel comfortable in recognising and reporting the unsafe behaviour of others.
Even with adequate training, regular investigations and checks will help to reduce risk
Some issues may only be observed during shift periods, for example during the busiest times or when an operation has skeleton staff, so it is advisable to test at any time of the day.
Having a mutual emergency plan
An emergency response plan should be fully communicated to all site-based responders to make sure in the event of an incident everyone understands their role, knows how to react and work as part of an emergency response team.
Different members of an emergency response team hold different responsibilities and need access to a method of real-time communication, as someone will be responsible for contacting senior management and the emergency services
Emergency response teams have responders who may be involved in both the planning and response phases so could contribute towards the development of an emergency response plan, testing and exercising of the plan, as well as ensuring that responders have adequate levels of competency, training, skills refresher and equipment to facilitate an effective level of response.