Did you know, that in the UK, the months of December and January show an increase in unsafe situations, incidents and accidents?
On average, more than four 400,000 turkeys are burnt at Christmas (ROSPA, 2019). How many more of these until these leading indicators lead to a house fire, damage to property and loss of life?
One person in five cuts themselves when preparing their vegetables (Onlinefirstaid.com, 2021)
More than 80,000 people require hospital treatment due to over exuberant activities leading to unfortunate accidents (Helpline, 2021)
What do you think this is down to? Pre-occupied minds? Too much joviality? The stress and pressures of adequate provision for your loved ones? All of the above and more?
These statistics are all from the relative comfort of working in reasonably safe environments and locations such as offices, supermarkets, hospitals, factories and construction sites.
Now bear a thought for the people working offshore.
On the fixed jackets, FPSO, FSO production platforms. The Jack Up, semi submersibles and Drill-ships currently on location. The support infrastructure from the helicopter transport services to the standby and logistical support vessels. Here in the UK, tens of thousands of people, working in the deepest, darkest and coldest of environments in the harsh and unforgiving North Sea, so that most people at home, can flick their thermostats on, on Central Heating Systems and Cookers. So that your cars have fuel in them, for those long and short drives to loved ones homes, to enjoy a nice wine or spirit, whilst devouring a 15 course meal…
These people commute to work on a helicopter, sometimes up to two hours in duration, where Newtons third law is being orchestrated to perfection (Chem.Libretexts.org, 2021) between the earths gravitational force and uplifted force from the rotors. Focus, attention, training, competence and amazing engineering prevents these flying contraptions from plummeting to ground with their precious cargo inside.
These ‘key workers’ will be ensuring that the production process equipment and drilling equipment are turning and burning. They ensure that utility systems are operational. Power generation, fresh water, wastewater systems, air conditioning, heating, lighting, laundry equipment, sea water services and not to mention the galley equipment. 12-hour shifts don’t stop just for Christmas day. They need to keep the ever-dwindling hydrocarbon reserves from disappearing, and keep gas and oil flowing, to keep up with the demand from all of us at home, cranking up those thermostats and jumping in and out of our cars!
The laws of physics are being defied all over an offshore installation or vessel.
The majority of the time, there is an airport, sat on top of a hotel, with a restaurant attached, with a power station, production equipment and storage vessels, containing highly hazardous, flammable and explosive inventories of oil and gas, which are only meters from the areas which are used for sleeping, resting and eating. These hydrocarbons are stored and processed under pressure, straining to be released from the confines of the various alloy mixture pipework holding them in place. They are usually located near to shipping lanes, with regular vessel activity in close proximity to the installation, creating a collision hazard from other vessels (Executive, 2021).
All the while these offshore locations are at the mercy of the waves and weather which pummel them every day, with natures full unhindered force.
If something bad does happen, and the Safety and Environmental barriers on the left-hand side of the bowtie, fail to prevent the realisation of a hazard. The hope is that the right-hand side of the barrier model can reduce the impact of these events through recovery and response (IChemE, 2016).
It should be remembered that some of these recovery and reduction barriers rely on people. How well an offshore installation deals with an incident after the fact, relies on the Emergency Response Teams, Emergency Procedures and the regular upkeep of training regimes and procedural review against industry best available technique, lessons learned and communicated best practice.
Should a fire occur, offshore workers cannot rely on the fire brigade, an ambulance or the police to immediately help. Electricians, mechanics and operator’s make up the Firefighting team. Stewards and chefs make up the triage or hospital team. The chance of surviving an emergency event such as an explosion, fire or collision are greatly reduced in comparison to life onshore. Additionally, help in the form of the Coastguard and Rescue helicopters can take hours depending on location.
The regular maintenance, inspection, testing and defect rectification keeps all if this going and reduces the likelihood of a Major Accident occurring. Thanks to the trained, competent, informed, professional and hardworking industry personnel.
The environment is harsh, it is dangerous and other than the great food put on by the Catering teams, there is not a huge amount to look forward to out there. I am not entirely sure if the statistics witnessed onshore in other occupations, read directly across into the offshore world. However, It is one of the most dangerous professions, in the harshest of environments, where mistakes, lapses in concentration or omissions can have catastrophic consequences for hundreds of people and the environment.
Please spare a thought for our offshore workers this Festive season. Their hard work, professionalism and sacrifice allows us to enjoy our time that little bit more.
Keep safe everyone.
Chem.Libretexts.org. (2021). Third law of motion. Retrieved from Chem.Libretexts: link
Executive, H. a. (2021). Ship/Platform Collision Incident Database (2015) for offshore oil and gas installations. Retrieved from Health and Safety Executive: link
Helpline, N. A. (2021). 12 hazards of Christmas. Retrieved from National-accident-helpline.co.uk: link
IChemE. (2016). The Use of Bow Ties in Process Safety Auditing. Retrieved from ICheme.org: link
Onlinefirstaid.com. (2021). Keeping you safe and out of hospital this Christmas. Retrieved from Onlinefirstaid.com: link
ROSPA. (2019). How to avoid an accident this Christmas.