It’s no surprise that winds are stronger offshore and the elements harsher. This calls for greater care and due diligence when installing and maintaining offshore wind farms. Adding to the challenge is that typical offshore wind-turbine components are larger and heavier than at onshore wind sites, so extra measures for safe transport and logistics are important — for equipment and site personnel.
One misstep by a wind tech off a vessel onto an offshore turbine or substation platform, and a rescue mission is in order. High winds upwards of 50 knots and unforgiving waters mean safety measures are paramount at offshore wind farms, and affect construction work and even a simple site visit.
Fortunately, the global wind industry has taken safety standards seriously. And new innovations and advancements will undoubtedly improve work in the growing U.S. offshore sector. Here are just a few examples of organizations that are raising the bar on offshore safety.
Permitting, financing, and site design are key aspects of a successful wind farm, but for offshore projects getting workers and equipment out to sea is a big transport and safety challenge.
“Vessel mobilizations represent the most challenging project aspects in the industry. They comprise an extensive scope of work with often over 100 workers at a time, tight deadlines, numerous lifts, multiple work environment risks, and multiple suppliers — each with differing levels of safety maturity,” shared Kirsten Bank Christensen, VP of Health, Safety, Environment, and Quality at A2SEA.
A2SEA is an offshore transport, installation, and service provider out of Denmark dedicated to improving site safety in its own company and with its suppliers. The company’s A2SEA’s ZERO HARM Mobilization initiative calls for projects to achieve zero “lost-time injuries with life-changing effects.” It currently benefits more than 30 suppliers annually.
“Where conventional mobilizations rely on the ability of each sub-contractor to manage its own team’s safety within agreed schedules and procedures for the overall project, ZERO HARM requires A2SEA, as the project owner, to dedicate additional administration resources that allow for centrally monitoring, controlling, and optimizing the entire workforce on an ongoing basis,” explains Christensen.
As a result, the company’s suppliers come to share the same rules, focus, and commitment throughout each operation, while augmenting their own safety performance. While ZERO HARM stresses putting safety first, A2SEA also enforces a “no blame” policy to encourage the reporting of all incidents. The overall objective is to become better and safer through shared experiences and knowledge.
The Offshore Renewable Workgroup of the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) is also dedicated to offshore safety and has seen an increase in related guidance documents. The association recently published a technical industry study on standardized boat landings.
“There are design differences between boat landings that vary from location to location and, subsequently, workboat operators are having to undergo costly modifications to their vessels’ fender arrangements to accommodate these different boat-landing designs,” says Jane Bugler, IMCA’s Technical Director and Acting Chief Executive.
As a result, the IMCA is working to develop a consensus on the optimal design and configuration of boat landings for accessing wind-turbine foundations from crew-transfer vessels. The goal is to standardize the structural design to reduce operator costs and increase safety of personnel when transferring to offshore platforms.
“It is vital that safety in the offshore renewables industry is regarded as of paramount importance,” adds Bugler. “This includes relevance guidance documents and competence frameworks to encourage those involved to strive for the ‘Holy Grail’ of zero incidents.”
De-boarding a work vessel is easier said than done. Access ladders typically connect to the side of a tower foundation or substation platform. But it is important to make a well-timed step, and account for the wind, waves, and a swaying vessel.
Compared to other countries, the U.S. regulations call for a narrower gap between the vessel and ladder, but this can prove more dangerous for those going across. Unpredictable waves mean the vessel risks bumping into the foundation’s edge or worse, pinning a worker against the structure.
The U.S. Energy Department noted this safety hazard and provided funding to offshore developer, Fishermen’s Energy, and consultant, Keystone Engineering to develop a safer access ladder. The result: a side-step access ladder that meets OSHA regulations and provides a safe worker space between the surrounding fender structural members and the vessel bumper.
“Unlike traditional ladder access where the worker steps from the vessel forward across a gap to the ladder, our innovation is rotated 90° so the vessel deck can be placed as close as possible to the ladder rail, allowing the offshore worker to safely side step onto the ladder,” said Stan White, Program Director of Fishermen’s Energy. “If the offshore worker were to accidentally fall, the worker won’t be pinned between the vessel and the ladder but, instead, the worker would fall in a clear space protected by the fender system.”
By sharing such advancements in equipment and standards on a global scale, the offshore wind industry can better ensure the safety of workers who will install and service wind farms.
Filed Under: Offshore wind, Safety