Following the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the offshore oil and gas sector recognised the immediate requirement for protective face shields to be worn during helicopter travel where social distancing recommendations are difficult to adhere to. With PPE grade masks required by the NHS and faced with the additional challenge that any face covers must not impede existing survival equipment, an alternative option needed to be found, the Virustatic Shield was identified as a potential solution.
As an industry leading safety and survival training provider, OGUK approached RONUK to carry out essential tests to ensure that a face covering could be introduced to helicopter travel safely, while still maintaining the integrity of existing equipment. The brief given to RONUK, was to check that there would be no snagging or operational issues with the shield when used in conjunction with current UK passenger safety equipment, such as survival suits, lifejackets and the emergency breathing system. RONUK was asked to base the equipment tests on standard UK helicopter survival exercises as taught within the OPITO standard.
In addition to running tests on the compatibility of the face shield, RONUK also assessed how it performed with restraint equipment, both during helicopter travel and when faced with an emergency escape situation. Utilising our Helicopter Underwater Escape Trainer (HUET) and survival training pool, we were able to perform robust testing on both the Virustatic shield and a selection of alternative facemasks which were used to benchmark the results against.
RONUK tests showed that the proposed face shield did not impede the use of essential survival safety equipment and it has now been approved for use in all offshore helicopter travel in the UK sector. The masks are used to ensure droplets from coughs and sneezes are contained when passengers are required to sit in close proximity to each other and ultimately to prevent the spread of coronavirus. They are used in conjunction with a number of other control measures including temperature checks at the heliport.
The oil and gas sector has for decades, placed safety at the forefront of its operations and RONUK is pleased to have been involved in this critical testing which helps to maintain these stringent safety standards during helicopter travel. Health and safety is our primary business and the wellbeing of both our delegates and our employees is our immediate priority. RONUK is already prepared in readiness to deliver essential safety training when deemed safe to do so, having a number of preventative measures already in place which include, but not limited to, providing every person who attends a RelyOn Nutec UK training centre with a Virustatic Shield.