Offshore Survival Part Two

5 Nov

As I promised yesterday, I can reveal that HUET stands for Helicopter Underwater Escape Training. This was probably the most exciting part of the offshore survival course, and involved us students being lowered into a swimming pool in a mocked-up helicopter. Helicopters are used to transport workers to North Sea oil rigs and although crashes into water are extremely rare, there were two such cases last year (in one case the crew were all killed and in the other were rescued), so it is important that workers are fluent in emergency procedures.

Here we are, bracing for impact:

The ‘helicopter’ is then rotated, or capsized:

Although being strapped into a seat, underwater, upside-down is a terrifying situation, the training we had been given yesterday prepared us to make our escape as calmly and quickly as possible. We were told to, with one hand, locate our window; and with the other, our belt buckle (visibility under the sea would be almost zero).

Here I am, after punching out my window:

In our survival suits, we then had to squeeze out of the windows and swim to the surface. We did a number of different drills, including with breathing apparatus, which is not comfortable but can buy valuable seconds of life. I escaped!:

As well at the HUET, the course gave us basic training in first aid, fire fighting, life crafts and an introduction to the offshore industry.

The mood among the group of students and trainees has been generally light-hearted, but when our instructor speaks about the Piper Alpha oil rig fire in 1988 – which killed 167 men – the atmosphere quietens and everyone remembers why we are here. Offshore oil and gas is one of the most dangerous industries in the world, so this type of in-depth (literally, in this case), training is required. However, safety professionals in all industries could learn a lot from the practical, interactive training given on the BOSIET course.

For more about my offshore survival training, see December’s Safety Management magazine.

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