Wednesday, May 22, 2013

RAF Valley helicopter technical issues 'delayed ship rescue'

BBC Website 22 May 2013

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued a number of recommendations after the MV Carrier ran aground off Llanddulas, Conwy in April 2012.  The Antigua and Barbuda-registered vessel had been carrying stone when it ran aground at night, close to the main A55 coast road.

Technical problems with all four rescue helicopters at RAF Valley on Anglesey delayed the rescue of a stricken ship's crew, an accident report has said.  It was 'extremely unusual' for all RAF Valley helicopters to be unservicable.

Two lifeboats, a Royal Navy helicopter from Prestwick, South Ayrshire and an RAF helicopter from Leconfield in North Yorkshire were involved in the rescue in heavy seas.

The report found the ship's master's unfamiliarity with UK maritime weather forecast terminology led to a delay in his departure from the Raynes quarry jetty in Llanddulas.

This in turn meant wind speeds had risen dramatically while the ship was moored at the jetty.
When it tried to move away from the jetty it was caught and carried onto the nearby shore.
The accident report concluded:
  • RAF staff reported it was extremely unusual for all four of the RAF Valley helicopters to be unserviceable with such substantial technical faults.
  • The MV Carrier's master, one of seven Polish nationals on board, was not sure of the meaning of some of the words used in UK maritime weather forecasts.
  • Jetty staff allowed the ship to continue loading despite the bad weather conditions.
  • None of the staff at the jetty had significant maritime experience.
  • "It is concerning that there may be other harbours like Raynes Jetty around the UK coast whose operators consider themselves outside the normal scope of port operations".
The MAIB said the rescue was delayed primarily because of the technical problems with all four helicopters at RAF Valley, while snowstorms stopped a helicopter from RAF Leconfield launching immediately.
The report added the Leconfield crew was "obliged to make an extremely hazardous flight in very poor conditions across the width of the country".

It said the performance of all the helicopter crews was "extremely commendable".

"However, the risks they faced during the rescue were exacerbated by the lack of more locally-available search and rescue (SAR) helicopters," it said.

"It was extremely fortunate the situation on board Carrier remained stable for long enough to enable all the crew to be rescued without injury."

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has also been asked to work with the Met Office to ensure the terminology used in weather broadcasts are "clearly understood by mariners and other users of the service".
Shore-based staff also needed a "good understanding of maritime weather forecasting" the report added.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Size of the matter – offshore ergonomics prepares for an overhaul

Offshore Technology by Heidi Vella 22 April 2013

A new study measuring the size of offshore oil and gas workers' bodies is currently underway, with the aim of improving ergonomic safety on rigs. It is the first study of its kind for more than twenty years.

Industry data reveals the offshore oil and gas work force is on average 19% heavier than it was in the 1980s.
To accurately quantify the current body size of offshore workers, the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen is conducting a two-year study using 3D scanners to measure the size of the workforce.

The study has provoked an interest in the health and fitness of the workforce, which is known to be an ageing group, as well as concern about the safety implications of a heavier, and therefore presumably larger, workforce operating in a space originally designed for smaller people.

"We want to make the industry aware of the size of the actual people working there. We need to not expect the size that would have suited them [workers] three decades ago to suit them now," project leader at RGU, Dr Arthur Stewart, says.

The team will divide people into weight categories and map their size and variability with up to six concise scans.

"Shoulder width and chest depth are two critical dimensions we are going to be measuring, which might critically affect the ability of two people to pass each other in a narrow corridor," says Dr Stewart.
The data, which will be owned by Oil & Gas UK, will be made freely available to the industry.

Oil & Gas UK and Dr Stewart's team believe designing rigs with current, and not old, data will lead to rigs with better ergonomic safety. But what aspects of offshore safety are most affected by a larger workforce?

"What I see as the biggest impact is on helicopter transportation," says industry ergonomics advisor, Tim Southam, from PTP-Global Ltd.

Helicopters that transport workers to and from rigs, sometimes for an hour and a half at a time, can be dangerous. Last year there were two helicopter ditches in the North Sea involving Super Pumas, with four helicopter ditches in four years.

Not only do larger people take up more room and make for a particularly uncomfortable ride - as many industry insiders have testified to, including Southam - but if a helicopter ditches, workers need to be able to squeeze through small spaces to quickly exit the vehicle.

Health and Safety Policy Manager at Oil & Gas UK, Bob Lauder, says that the industry has already made adjustments to life boat capacity and payloads on helicopters have been adjusted in accordance with a Big Person study that Oil & Gas UK carried out a few years ago, which showed them the body size of the industry workforce is increasing. Also, in 2005, the Civil Aviation Authority increased the weight allocation for each helicopter passenger by 20lbs, from 14 stone to 15 stone 6lb.

Southam also warns that decades' old rig designs servicing people that are now on average bigger can affect special factors, such as crawling under pipes, the size of beds, living space and shower cubicles.
Dr Stewart agrees, he says: "If you can imagine an emergency situation, body size, when you're trying to move quickly and urgently, can become potentially critical, particularly if you are trying to escape through a narrow window for example."

However, not all concur. John Taylor from offshore workers' union Unite says: "The size of your body mass doesn't make a blind bit of difference getting out of a corridor, it doesn't make any difference in the accommodation. The only problem would be if a person became that overweight he couldn't escape out of a window in a helicopter."

Dr Stewart and Lauder stress that the study, which is funded by Oil & Gas UK and major offshore companies, isn't focussing on the weight or health of offshore workers, although weight will be recorded.
However, they both concede that health relates to body size; therefore it is almost impossible to talk about one without considering the other.

Transocean has recognised this problem and are addressing it by offering healthy eating and fitness assistance to workers with a waist of more than 37 inches, which both Lauder and Taylor support.

However, unlike Norway, where 120kg is the largest an offshore worker is allowed to weigh, in the UK there is no automatic cut off figure that prevents people working offshore, though anyone with a BMI of more than 40 is required to satisfy a number of additional conditions before they are passed as fit to work offshore.



Wrexham call centre staff fly to New Zealand to cover night shifts

BBC Website 2 May 2013

Call centre staff from Wrexham are taking turns to live in New Zealand to cover night shifts back home in the UK.

With New Zealand 12 hours ahead, Moneypenny staff normally based in Wrexham are still working day shifts but provide late-night cover when colleagues in Wales clock off.

Before opening the office in Auckland, bosses asked staff if they wanted to work nights or relocate temporarily.

A trial group of four staff are due to return after flying out last November

The staff have been working four days on and four days off so they can take in the sights while living abroad, a pattern which is set to continue in four to six month stints when the next group take over.

Moneypenny provides a phone answering service, handling over 8m calls a year for 6,000 clients from sole traders to multinationals.And bosses said more UK customers had wanted calls handling through the night.
Staff in Wrexham cover the working day before colleagues in Auckland take over

The company is putting up the first group of workers in a rented house.

It is envisaged British employees will spend over four months in New Zealand although the changeover could be altered to suit them.

Rachel Clacher, who set up the company with brother Ed Reeves, had the idea to base staff overseas while on a sabbatical in Australia.

Until opening the office last October she says they had "resisted" expanding the service to deal with out-of-hours calls having seen research about detrimental effects on people working nights, affecting health and attitude, which could also impact on customers.
The issue was compounded when only a handful of the company's 280 staff said they wanted to work nights.
But more than 40 said they were interested in mixing work between home and abroad.

Now, when the Wrexham-based workers leave the office, at the "flick of a switch" at 20:00 GMT their colleagues in Auckland take over until 08:00 GMT and UK customers continue to receive the same service through the night.

Ms Clacher said: "We had looked at hiring staff to work overnight but we weren't confident service levels could be maintained so would have never taken that risk.

"By working on the other side of the world we're now able to offer a truly 24 hour first-rate service, with bright, chirpy and wide-awake people."