Offshore Survival Part One

4 Nov

Being winched into a helicopter from a stormy sea, with a survival suit dragging me down, was not where I imagined a job on Safety Management magazine would lead me.

Luckily, both the waves and the chopper were simulations. But the safety equipment and procedures were very real.

In the wake of the disaster on BP’s oil rig Deepwater Horizon earlier in the year (where 11 people died) and some less-than-encouraging HSE stats about unwanted hydrocarbon releases in the North Sea, the safety standards of the offshore gas and oil industry are once again a hot topic. So I have been sent to take the three-day BOSIET (Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training) course that everyone – from cleaners to top CEOs – must undergo before being allowed out on an oil rig.

In the Teesside training centre, I am the only female in a group of 12 students. But their maleness is the only thing they share: they range from a long-serving OIMs (Oil Installation Manager) here to top up his qualification for the forth time, to a young Polish engineer who needs to go onto an oil rid to control sea-bed robots. There is also a man who has been long-term unemployed, resentful about having to pay the high course costs himself just to get back in the job market.

Our jovial Geordie instructor is full of nuggets of information such as the fact that “women and children first” is a misnomer, since, in cold water, we are likely to survive longer – or be revived more successfully – than men. There has been a lot of information to take in  – but the instructors prefer us to learn practically – hence the swimming pool dunks.

I have a lot more to tell you about what I’ve been up to: particularity what HUET stands for (clue: it’s thrilling) and some psychology about how humans act in a fire situations at sea. But for now I’ll leave you with a photo of me in my survival suit this morning:

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