In Depth: Preparing for Optimal Safety at Sea

At the moment the offshore wind activities in Dutch waters are buzzing. Dutch utility Eneco is in the final phase of completing their 129 MW Eneco Luchterduinen wind farm.

In the IJsselmeer, along the dikes of the Noordoostpolder, the near shore 144 MW Westermeerwind wind farm has all the foundations installed and with the turbine installation and commissioning awaiting it is also planned to become operational this year. Some 80 kilometres off the Dutch north coast construction work has started on what will become the largest Dutch offshore wind farm, the 600 MW Gemini offshore wind farm.

Many people are involved in these activities, during the installation and commissioning of the wind farms but also for the maintenance activities once the wind farms are operational. Siemens Wind Power is a main contractor in both the Westermeerwind and Gemini projects. For the coming years the company will need some 100 technicians who will service their turbines in these projects.

Working in offshore wind – a challenging job

As these technicians will have to access the turbines to perform their activities it is therefore vital that they go through a proper training to ensure that their work offshore is being performed in the most safely manner. Siemens has its own training centres but also uses external training centres. One of these is Falck Safety Services, one of the four Falck divisions. With around 330,000 people being trained annually in their 36 trainings centres in 20 countries, Falck is currently the largest training provider worldwide. On 2 June both companies set up a press meeting at Falck Safety Services’ Rotterdam, Maasvlakte centre.

During the presentation it was explained that most of the technicians are onshore technicians who are in general not familiar with working offshore yet and it is therefore of importance that they, beside the turbine model specific technical training, also receive safety training in order to become as much possible prepared for the challenges in working offshore which requires a different mentality. It requires a lot of someone’s physical state and also their flexibility as it is not a nine-to-five job where you go home every night. But, above all a high level of responsibility as working offshore does not come without its risks. When something happens there is no hospital nearby so it is of importance that risks are mitigated and that in case of an accident one can help each other as best possible.

Safety first

The Falck Safety Services’ Maasvlakte already offers training according to the standard for Basic Safety Training outlined by the Global Wind Organisation (GWO) which consists of five modules, First aid, Manual handling, Fire awareness, Sea survival and working at heights. The Maasvlakte centre received full GWO accreditation in 2013. The centre was already able to offer the first four modules but it did not have the facilities for the Working at Heights module. In order to obtain this accreditation a new training facility, comprising of three outside towers and an indoor training frame, was built. After having received a theoretical introduction on legislation, how to use the material, and the possible risks when working offshore the trainees will then put all in practise. During the tour around the premises an evacuation drill was performed in the indoor facility as the wind speeds were to high that day for outdoor training.

To ensure that their technicians are trained as much possible with their own equipment Siemens have set up their own company Safety Standard. The company has asked Falck Safety Services to incorporate some of their requirements, mainly to be found in the use of Siemens specific equipment such as descent equipment, in their GWO trainings. Since the end of last year the Maasvlakte centre is now officially the first centre in the Netherlands to be able to offer this.

Sabine Lankhorst

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