When Senior Geotechnical Engineer, Helen Taylor stepped out on poolside at the RelyOn Nutec training centre in Aberdeen, she knew that it was literally sink or swim time for her. Halfway through her Offshore Survival (BOSIET) course and now faced with the Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) element, this was the moment she’d been dreading.
For years now, Helen has known that completing her BOSIET would have a significant impact on her career allowing her to finally undertake projects that required her physical presence on offshore installations, however, her fear of being trapped underwater had prevented her from signing up to the course.
“Back in my university days, I was not only a strong swimmer but also a trained lifeguard”, Helen explained when we caught up with her after her training, “However, when canoeing on Scotland’s River Earn one day, I capsized and was unable to roll back up. As I tried to extract myself from the canoe, my foot was caught between the seat and rim the canoe. In one of those terrifying moments that seem to last a lifetime, I struggled to release my foot. Fortunately, I managed to break free, but it was a very scary experience and although I have canoed since, my love for the sport had gone”.
But it was the next incident that shook her to her very core. When working in Houston a few years later, she went river tubing with friends near the end of the season when the water levels were dropping. Squeezing through a narrow but fast flowing water shoot with rocks on either side, her tube stuck and flipped over. Completely trapped underwater with the tube on top of her, Helen had no means of escape. In a stroke of luck, a passer-by saw her feet sticking out the side of the tube and pulled it off her allowing her to float downstream, unhurt but completely terrified.
Although she’d escaped with her life once again, it left a deep-rooted fear of being trapped underwater and Helen didn’t believe she would ever be able to complete the HUET training. However, after losing out on a couple of contracts with work, she signed up for the course determined to face her fears once and for all.
The HUET training consists of a number of underwater evacuation drills from a helicopter simulator with the aim of preparing delegates to handle an emergency situation. These drills include submersion and capsize exercises, with delegates wearing seatbelts and escaping out of the simulator windows. Although undertaken in a very controlled environment, the HUET strikes fear into the most confident of delegates. You can view a video of the RONUK instructors demonstrating a HUET drill HERE.
Helen knows that without the patience and support of the RONUK teaching and diving staff she would never have succeeded. “The guys were amazing”, she said, “they allowed me to complete the drills under my own terms and really took the time to help me through it without any pressure at all.
“Because of coronavirus the class size was smaller which worked to my benefit meaning less time constraints and more one-to-one attention from the instructors. Overcoming my greatest fear and escaping from the simulator was one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my life. I couldn’t believe it when I finally completed all the drills and when I got into the life raft, I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t breathe properly.
“I want to say a big thank you my family and to the amazing team who had great patience and understanding at RelyOn Nutec UK in Aberdeen. Its thanks to all of them I managed to complete all the required elements and finally put my greatest fear to rest”.
We’d like to congratulate Helen in showing great courage in conquering that which causes her most distress. Her concerns certainly aren’t unusual, and we welcome countless delegates into our training centres who are filled with dread at the thought of undertaking the HUET module. But our instructors excel at putting nervous trainees at ease and successfully coaxing them through the drills. As a result, dozens of delegates like Helen walk out of our doors every year feeling like they’ve achieved the impossible.
Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET) is for all personnel (new or returning) working on offshore installations in the oil and gas industry. It’s delivered at both our Aberdeen and Teesside training centres and consists of a combination of practical and theoretical sessions. The Digital BOSIET offers an online alternative for all the theory elements, with delegates only attending 1 day training. The Digital BOSIET is currently available at our Teesside training centre only. The BOSIET is valid for 4 years at which point delegates must undertake the 1 day Further Offshore Emergency Training (FOET) to remain certified.