| Written by Michal Wozniakowski-Zehenter

Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) are three of the most critical aspects of any industry, but they become even more vital in offshore wind farm operations. The offshore wind energy industry poses unique challenges that require careful management, including harsh weather conditions, complex machinery, and long distances from shore. As the industry continues to grow, driven by the need for clean energy, HSE's role in offshore wind farm operations becomes increasingly essential.
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Importance of HSE in Wind Farm Operations

Offshore wind farm operations are complex and demanding, requiring a high level of safety and sustainability to operate effectively. While responsible for ensuring that these wind farms operate that way, the HSE department also plays a critical role in developing and implementing safety procedures and protocols, training workers, monitoring and evaluating offshore wind farm operations, emergency response planning and execution, and promoting a culture of safety.

The Global Offshore Wind Health Organization Incident Report highlights (source) that in 2021 alone, there were 780 reported incidents resulting in 106 recordable injuries, fortunately with no fatalities, but 72 lost or restricted workday ones, and 34 medical treatment accidents.

The number of hours worked increased by a staggering 28% compared to the previous year, mainly due to the construction of offshore wind farms, which saw an increase from 14.9 million to 19.1 million hours. As more offshore wind farms become operational, there is a steady and progressive increase in the hours worked.

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HSE's daily life in wind farm operations

Developing and implementing safety procedures and protocols is one of the HSE's fundamental roles. The department ensures that all aspects of offshore wind farm operations, from construction to maintenance and decommissioning, are covered by comprehensive safety procedures and protocols.

It also ensures that all workers are trained in safety procedures and protocols and have access to the necessary equipment and tools to work safely. Regular training and refresher courses are conducted to ensure that workers remain up-to-date, thereby maintaining safety standards and reducing the risk of accidents or incidents.

Monitoring and evaluating offshore wind farm operations is another crucial role. Regular inspections and audits are conducted to identify potential hazards and risks, recommend corrective actions, and ensure that offshore wind farm operations comply with relevant health, safety, and environmental regulations. HSE's work in this area ensures that safety and sustainability are at the forefront of offshore wind farm operations, reducing the negative impact on the environment and ensuring the safety of workers and stakeholders.

The HSE department is also responsible for emergency response planning and execution by working closely with other stakeholders, including emergency services, to develop and implement emergency response plans and procedures that minimize the impact of any accidents or incidents that may occur (read more about RFID mustering).

The department also ensures that workers are trained in emergency response procedures and that the necessary equipment and resources are available to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies, thereby minimizing the risk of loss of life and damage to the environment.
Promoting a culture of safety in offshore wind farm operations is the final key role of the HSE by developing and implementing safety campaigns and initiatives to raise awareness and promote a culture of safety among workers.

In addition, the department works with stakeholders to create and implement sustainability initiatives that help to minimize the impact of offshore wind farm operations on the environment. HSE's work in this area helps to ensure that offshore wind farm operations remain sustainable and safe for all stakeholders involved, enhancing the industry's reputation and promoting its growth.

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THE BIGGEST POTENTIAL RISK - The NACELLE

Despite efforts to improve safety in wind turbine nacelles, the number of incidents and injuries remains a concern. In 2021, the nacelle saw the highest number of recorded incidents and injuries, totalling to 91 - a 16% increase from the previous year and the third-highest on record.

However, there is some good news, as a result of improved turbine design and maintenance practices that minimize hazards and standardized procedures within the turbine, the number of recordable injuries has significantly reduced to 9, the lowest ever recorded.

Unfortunately, lifting operations continue to be the main cause of most incidents, with a 53% increase from the previous year. This highlights the need for better training and safety protocols around those operations.

Furthermore, 30 high-potential incidents occurred within the nacelle, 88% more than in 2020, and the third-highest on record. These high-potential incidents serve as a warning sign that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of workers in this specific part of the turbine.

Although reducing recordable injuries is a step in the right direction, it is crucial to prioritize safety in the nacelle. The wind industry must remain vigilant in identifying and mitigating hazards to prevent incidents and injuries in the future. By implementing effective safety measures and best practices, the industry can work together to reduce incidents and ensure the safety of all workers.

 

CTVS AS THE SECOND HIGH RISK

As offshore wind farms become more prevalent, Crew Transfer Vessels (CTV) have become an essential mode of transportation for workers. However, the increasing number of incidents involving CTVs has become a significant concern for the industry.

With 85 incidents reported in 2021, an 8% increase from the previous year, those vessels have become a focal point for safety improvement efforts. However, the high potential incidents, matching last year's number and setting a new record low, were still a cause for alarm, with 18 incidents reported.

Most incidents occurred during transit, with 32% being high potential incidents, while nine incidents involved lifting, representing a significant increase of 125% compared to the previous year, with 44% of these incidents being high potential. These incidents can have a wide-reaching impact on many individuals, considering the crucial role of CTVs in transferring personnel to and from wind farms. Therefore, there is a need to improve safety onboard.

It is crucial to implement measures that ensure the safety of workers on the transfer vessels, as it is the industry's responsibility to provide a safe working environment. The offshore wind industry is continually evolving, and safety must remain a top priority to guarantee the industry's success.

By improving safety onboard CTVs, the industry can ensure that workers are protected and their well-being is safeguarded.

 

FAQ's

What are the biggest risks in Offshore Wind Farm operations?

-      Offshore wind farms are becoming increasingly popular as the world seeks alternative energy sources. However, while the benefits of this form of energy production can be overstated, working in such an environment is full of risks. Workers in offshore wind farms are exposed to various dangers that can cause physical harm and even fatalities. These risks range from accidents caused by equipment malfunctions to the unpredictable forces of nature, such as storms, hurricanes, and high waves. Additionally, environmental hazards such as exposure to hazardous chemicals and gases, as well as transportation uncertainties, are significant threats to workers' safety. Electrical hazards, communication barriers, and fire risks are other potential hazards that workers must face.

How big is the HSE department responsible for Offshore Wind Farm operations?

-      When it comes to staffing the Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) department in an offshore wind farm, it's crucial to consider the size and complexity of the project. A larger wind farm, for instance, may require staffing with a strong team consisting of several dozen or even hundreds of professionals. These professionals may include environmental engineers, safety inspectors, health and safety officers, and emergency response coordinators. On the other hand, a smaller wind farm may require only a few specialists with expertise in specific areas. Regardless of the size of the wind farm, it's vital to ensure that the HSE department is adequately staffed to guarantee the safety of personnel and the environment.

What kind of training HSE department provides for offshore wind farm operations?

-      Offshore wind farms require a comprehensive range of training to guarantee the safety of their personnel. The HSE department ensures that new staff undergo safety induction training to familiarize them with the project's health, safety, and environmental policies and procedures, technical training on equipment use and maintenance, and emergency response and environmental awareness training. Additionally, workers are trained on working at height and using personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent falls and other accidents.

 

TAKEAWAY

In conclusion, the HSE is a critical component of offshore wind farm operations, ensuring that they are conducted safely, sustainably, and efficiently. The department's responsibilities include developing and implementing safety procedures and protocols, training workers, monitoring and evaluating offshore wind farm operations, emergency response planning and execution, and promoting a safety culture. The offshore wind energy industry's growth depends on HSE's work, ensuring that it continues to expand safely and sustainably, providing clean energy for generations to come.

 

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