Raising safety standards on offshore wind farms20 April 2018
Andrew Tunnicliffe speaks with Kate Harvey, general manager of the G+ Global Offshore Wind Health and Safety Organisation, about the company’s work to improve safety in the offshore wind farm environment, how the challenges have evolved and how they are being met.
Health and safety is a vital element at all stages in the life of an offshore wind farm. The Global Offshore Wind Health and Safety Organisation (the G+) was created in 2011 by leading offshore wind farm operators, who wanted to improve their cooperation and industry leadership on health and safety. Challenges that workers face include working at height, and lifting and handling.
Andrew Tunnicliffe: What are the most pressing matters for the offshore wind industry in relation to health and safety?
Kate Harvey: The G+, supported by the Energy Institute, presents annual health and safety statistics reports. In June 2017, the G+ launched the global G+ 2016 incident data report, which gives a comprehensive insight into the health and safety performance of the G+ members. The data shows that a high number of lost workday incidents occurred due to manual handling. The G+ is currently looking further into the causes of manual handling with a view to developing guidance specific to the offshore wind industry.
Working at height, and lifting and marine operations have the greatest number of high potential incidents reported. The G+ has good-practice guidelines on small service vessels, and has conducted workshops on lifting operations generally and davit cranes more specifically.
How have recent changes in the sector impacted its approach to health and safety regulation, and technological developments?
Offshore wind farm sites are growing in all dimensions in terms of capacity, area, distance from shore and the size of the technology being used. This leads to different types of vessels being used and a change to vessel strategies.
A key way to reduce health and safety incidents in the future is to try and avoid using humans as much, through automated technologies and safer design. The G+ has a Safe by Design programme; many workshops have been held and the purpose of each is to explore the current industry design on a particular topic/risk area and to investigate improvements in the design phase of an offshore wind farm project. This will lead to a reduction in the number of incidents, and to improvements and efficiencies in health and safety performance.
With regard to automated technologies, the G+ is working with Cranfield University and the University of Oxford to assess the use of human-free offshore lifting solutions. Concepts for human-free offshore lifting operations in the categories of guidance and control, connections and assembly are studied in this work.
Has regulation increased and is it now doing what it should, or is there more needed?
The G+ has been fortunate to work closely with the health and safety regulator in the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This has led to the G+ publishing good practice standards, such as management of small vessels and working at height, as opposed to regulation being imposed on the industry by the HSE.
At the Offshore Wind Leaders event in Bootle in November 2015, it was widely acknowledged that the industry welcomed the G+ (or G9 as it was then), further consolidating its leadership role in driving the improvement of health and safety performance in the offshore wind industry. The HSE has now organised a second event for April 2018 to check the progress that has been made since November 2015.
The G+ is keen to extend relationships with regulators across the countries that members are currently working in, such as Germany, the US and Taiwan.
Has there been a shift in focus towards health and safety by the industry, and if so, why?
Health and safety has always been at the forefront of the G+ members’ operations. This hasn’t changed. The safety agenda remains the top priority of all the G+ member companies. Members are very clear that to continue developing and operating offshore wind farm projects they need to maintain a high level of health and safety performance. Anything else is not tolerable to these large utilities. Statoil, for example, found that during the construction of Sheringham Shoal (2010–2012) it faced a number of safety related issues. The total recordable injury frequency peaked at 8.0 in 2010 and 3.8 in 2011.
In 2016, two executive vice-presidents working in New Energy Solutions and Projects at Statoil endorsed a new safety initiative for their offshore wind business. The proposal was to join forces with peer companies undertaking construction activities in parallel to Dudgeon (2016– 18). Statoil was eager to find efficient and tangible ways of improving the safety performance in the offshore wind industry. The initiative was endorsed by peer companies, and the ‘Safety Champions’ met for the first time in April 2016 and continue to meet biannually.
The industry is becoming much more competitive and driving efficiencies in many areas, which is reflected in recent strike prices for new offshore wind farms. However, the safety agenda must remain at the forefront and not be relegated to the sidelines. Through the G+ work programme, those of other organisations, collaboration with key stakeholders and our partnership with the Energy Institute, the G+’s focus continues to be on improving the health and safety performance of our own companies, and of the industry as a whole.
Are we getting any closer to formalised global standards, and if so what are the challenges still to be overcome?
The G+ currently has two good practice documents; working at height and small service vessels. Both guidance documents are currently being revised so that they can be used across the globe. The G+ is also developing global guidance on manual handling and ergonomics, and avoiding dropped objects, both of which will be published in 2018.
How much more can the G+ do, and how important are your members and those they work with?
The G+’s focus over the past few years has been about engaging more with the supply chain and trade associations. The G+ has core members, but in 2017 it launched an associate membership concept. Membership is open to offshore wind farm developers with planning consent, non-lead wind farm operators, OEMs and transmission network owners. The aim is to further facilitate engagement with these stakeholders. The supply chain has also been more engaged in the good-practice guidance consultations, participating in the working groups and reviewing early draft documents. This has improved the content of the G+ guidance and will hopefully increase their uptake.
In response to the G+’s commitment to cooperation, and as an output of the HSE offshore wind leaders event, an Industry Collaboration Committee was formed. This is chaired by the G+ and meets on a regular basis to ensure that the various organisations’ work programmes are consistent with current and emerging priority risks, that duplication is minimised and that efforts are undertaken by the most suitable organisation under a more collaborative framework. Members of the committee are IMCA, RUK, the G+, WindEurope and the GWO.
The G+ holds an annual stakeholder forum. The purpose of this event is for the G+ members to present work done and key deliverables, including the incident data work programme, the G+ Safe by Design initiative and implementation of the G+ good-practice guidelines. The stakeholder forums are attended by representatives from the G+ member companies and key offshore wind industry stakeholders. The event provides a platform for important discussions regarding health and safety in the offshore wind industry. In previous years, the forums have included panel sessions with senior industry representatives. The G+ has held stakeholder forums in 2013, 2014 and 2016, and is looking forward to hosting the next one in Hamburg in January 2018.