Training that transcends borders – Wind Energy Update online magazine

11 May 2012

Responding to growing demand from offshore renewable energy sectors, Petrofac Training Services (PTS), a division of the Petrofac Group, has established a new training partnership with Deutsche WindGuard, a leading consultancy company to the German wind energy industry.

The aim of the partnership is to make it easier for cross-border transit of offshore workers in the UK and Germany. Combining more than 40 years offshore experience, the two companies will pool their knowledge to add value to the training provided to both current and future German offshore wind workforces.

Through the partnership, Petrofac Training Services and Deutsche WindGuard aim to harmonise their training operations between the UK and Germany, to provide training courses at their centres in the UK and Germany that meet a consistent external and internal standard.

Wind Energy Update speaks to Gordon Caird, regional director, Europe at Petrofac Training services, and Niels Erdmann, managing director of Deutsche WindGuard Offshore GmbH, to learn more about the training services partnership offering and the challenges presented by offshore wind health and safety.

Wind Energy Update: Which areas of German offshore wind operations would particularly benefit from a health and safety standard, from a training perspective?

Gordon Caird: All areas of offshore operations would benefit. Travel by helicopter, emergency response procedures, health and safety procedures and standards relating to working in a harsh weather environment.

Niels Erdmann: Personnel transfer to and from the wind farm would particularly benefit, ensuring that personnel and contractors are trained to the same standard. I think it’s important to remember that people in the industry require a unique and reliable level of training and competence.
It’s different to traveling to and from your workplace onshore. We have to consider the fears employees/contractors might have. We have to look at how we can overcome those fears. We have to ensure that they know what to do should an emergency arise. We have to consider the weather and any emergencies that might occur at the work site.

Wind Energy Update: What are the most pressing health and safety challenges in the Baltic Sea?

Niels Erdmann: There are many similarities to the North Sea, such as the challenging operating environment, changeable conditions, and related transfer and turbine access issues related to icing on blades or ice on the laddering.
While there is lower wave height and wind speed, the conditions are often more icy than in the North Sea, so this should be a consideration when talking about the Baltic Sea.
Any offshore work carries higher risks that would need to be mitigated.

Gordon Caird: The Baltic Sea presents similar hazards and risks found in the North Sea. The key is to effectively assess the risk, to train personnel accordingly, to agree best working practices and to assess personnel to ensure they have the competence and support to react and respond adequately in an emergency situation.

Wind Energy Update: In which areas would German offshore wind benefit from offshore oil and gas experience in H&S?

Gordon Caird: The North Sea offshore oil and gas sector has been through the learning curve and has had its share of incidents. Take the Piper Alpha tragedy for example, it was a turning point for the oil and gas sector; following the tragedy, Lord Cullen recommended over 100 changes to North Sea Safety procedures – all of which were accepted by the industry. New health and safety regulations have emerged as a result.
The German offshore wind industry doesn’t need to learn any of the hard lessons, as the Oil & Gas industry can share best practice, particularly how to operate safely and competently in remote environments

Niels Erdmann: It is important to clearly define the emergency response protocol – there has been better progress on this and cooperation and communication remains key to the process.

Wind Energy Update: Do any H&S training standards exist for German offshore wind yet? If not, are there likely to be in the near future?

Niels Erdmann: Yes, procedures have been defined, backed up by German legislation, specific offshore requirements and international standards. For each offshore project work site, health and safety standards must be defined in a document called the ‘Schutz & Sicherheitskonzept’ (SchuSiKo).
This document defines the whole set up of the windfarm. The health and safety concept defines the organisation’s waste management, marking and emergency response procedure, on the basis of a hazard assessment of each individual site. The SchuSiko has to be authorised by the permitting authority.

Gordon Caird: More generally, in terms of training standards, RenewableUK and the GWO, are in the process of creating industry standards. As this time it is unclear if the G9 will follow suit and create its own set of standards.
The GWO standard has not yet been ratified – it was released to market in early February. It is now up to the training providers as to whether they adopt it.

Wind Energy Update: Is there a need for more regulatory oversight, or are we likely to see industry-led standards established? If the latter, what industry-led initiatives are currently underway in Germany's offshore wind sector?

Gordon Caird: The UK’s oil and gas sector is largely self-regulated and while there is broad agreement as to what standards should be, there is currently no one set of recognised standards around Europe. The sector has come a long way and health and safety incident records are now held in a central database that is open and accessible.
The offshore wind sector can benefit from the example set by oil and gas industry when addressing their H&S practices. RenewableUK and the GWO are working hard to provide a package of standards that is compatible and mutually acceptable across borders.
In Germany, the DIN (Deutsche Institut fur Normung standards) is also working on establishing H&S standards.
The offshore wind sector can achieve a similar result. The G9, GWO and RenewableUK are working separately and collectively to deliver world class safety performance across all of its activities in the offshore wind industry.

Wind Energy Update: Is it likely that a cross-border/international H&S standard will emerge for European offshore wind?

Niels Erdmann: Currently Petrofac Training Services and Deutsche WindGuard are both engaged with clients for whom cross border standards would be advantageous. For clients that have both UK and German operations it makes sense to be able to transfer employees from project to project without having to undergo additional or similar training.
There are subtle differences between different countries’ health and safety standards and these are points that Petrofac and Deutsche WindGuard will address in order to achieve cross-border standards for clients operating in both the UK and Germany.

Wind Energy Update: Why the partnership between Petrofac Training & Deutsche WindGuard – and why now?

Gordon Caird: We have been providing training in the North Sea oil and gas sector for more than thirty years. During this time we have built up significant experience in establishing health and safety processes and developing training standards for personnel.
Companies with operations in the UK and Germany are looking for experienced training organisations that can deliver courses to a consistently high level. This is why we are partnering with Deutsche WindGuard.

Niels Erdmann: Deutsche WindGuard began providing services to Germany’s offshore wind market in 2008, through its subsidiary Deutsche WindGuard Offshore. Both Petrofac and Deutsche WindGuard have experienced increasing recruitment in Germany’s offshore wind market, hence our decision to join forces. Our respective knowledge can add value to the training experience for current and future offshore workers in Germany and the UK.

Wind Energy Update: What are the short, medium and long term goals of this partnership and how will it help the German offshore renewable energy market?

Gordon Caird: The short-term goal is to satisfy client needs by harmonising operations and training between both sites. In the medium term, it is assumed that the main renewables bodies would mutually agree training standards.
This would lead to easier cross border transit for offshore workers in the UK and Germany, as the training delivered from within Petrofac Training Services & Deutsche Windguard training centres would be carried out to the same external and internal standards.

Niels Erdmann: In the long-term we aim to provide the offshore renewable energy sector with the highest and leading standard of training and competence for the German and UK offshore wind workforce.