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When Seconds Count: The Critical Role of Specialist Training for Emergency Response

Cath Liebnitz, Centre Director, RelyOn Nutec UK and Craig Ross, The Fire Training Group

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12. March 2024

Picture yourself standing on the deck of an oil and gas platform. You can see other platforms in the distance, but otherwise, you’re alone and surrounded by the North Sea. Suddenly, an alarm sounds. You find yourself in a very different circumstance than if you were in an office building in the middle of a busy industrial estate - the stakes are higher, and the consequences could be dire. You find yourself depending on a diverse emergency response team, from roustabouts to engineers, all trained beyond their day-to-day duties.

In this high-risk environment, where every decision can mean the difference between safety and disaster, the importance of specialised training in fire safety, chemical spill management, and helideck operations becomes starkly evident. These are not mere job requirements; they are lifelines, meticulously designed to confront the inherent dangers of offshore life head-on.

The oil and gas sector, recognising the unique hazards of offshore operations, insists on the highest level of safety training. This training, mandated by industry standards and shaped by collective company input, is not just a regulatory requirement - it's a fundamental aspect of operational integrity. Here, training providers play a vital role in not only adhering to these standards but also supporting the fostering of a unified culture of safety across the workforce that permeates every aspect of offshore operations.

Striking the right balance

To be effective, we cannot rely on theory or practical training alone. The science behind combining practical and theoretical training is grounded in the principle that engaging multiple learning modalities enhances memory retention and understanding. Theoretical learning addresses conceptual and cognitive understanding, while practical training reinforces this knowledge through hands-on experience, allowing learners to apply concepts in real-world scenarios. A blended approach bridges the gap between hypothetical knowledge and practical application, making it a highly effective strategy for training in complex fields, like oil and gas.

The use of realistic scenarios in a safe, controlled environment allows learners to apply theory to real-life situations, thereby improving their ability to retain information and develop critical thinking skills, which are vital in an emergency response situation. By utilising real life incidents or scenarios throughout training courses, learners can connect the what with the why, through reality and bring to life the severity of incidents offshore.

Replicating the right environment

In a perfect world, delegates would train in an identical replica of an oil and gas platform, but that’s not realistic. Facilities like those run in partnership by RelyOn Nutec and The Fire Training Group, built on over three acres of land, set the gold standard. The comprehensive simulation environments, which include helideck, chemical spills and confined space scenarios, provide immersive experiences that replicate the complexities of offshore work, allowing the pair to simulate life-like scenarios that can ultimately lead to lives saved in a real incident, while ensuring adequate space to avoid overpopulating the training grounds.

The facility offers a comprehensive range of simulation equipment and environments that replicate real-life scenarios, enabling a highly immersive training experience. Furthermore, FTG and RelyOn ensure that to pass, each learner must be involved in at least one scenario covering all 3 levels of a multi-level structure, casualty recovery and hose management with a charged hose. This ensures that individuals are not only theoretically knowledgeable but also practically proficient in handling complex and hazardous situations typical of offshore operations.

Chemical spill scenarios are a critical and non-negotiable component of the training on offer. The importance of simulating spill scenarios cannot be overstated as it prepares personnel for the complex challenges of containing and mitigating the effects of hazardous substances, but often it is overlooked.

Like simulating firefighting in different areas, such as a galley or a process area, or handling a fire on an overturned aircraft on a helideck, chemical spill training is characterised by its emphasis on realism, providing participants with hands-on experience in identifying, containing, and cleaning up spills. Such simulations are essential for instilling confidence and competence in handling the diverse array of chemicals found offshore.

Upholding the highest standards of training

The oil and gas industry sets a benchmark for safety training that is unparalleled in its depth and breadth, but it should not risk becoming complacent. Incidents and accidents do happen and in the event you’re on an offshore facility, a competent, well trained emergency response team is the difference between going home safely and an incomprehensible disaster.

As the industry evolves, the commitment to maintaining and elevating training standards must remain central. At RelyOn and the Fire Training Group, this dedication to safety and operational excellence is fundamental, ensuring every team member is equipped to navigate the demanding offshore environment confidently.

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