Living and working on an offshore drilling rig is a dangerous undertaking. The numerous safety hazards associated with any kind of industrial work are compounded by the fact that these rigs often operate in remote, harsh environments far away from land-based assistance. Working at heights, exposure to extreme weather, and long shifts can all lead to hazardous situations. Even a minor mistake can have serious consequences due to the unstable nature of the environment and the unavailability of traditional emergency assistance.
Many workers also suffer from fatigue after long hours spent in hazardous conditions, increasing their risk of injury or even death due to accidents caused by human error. Fires on board ships and rigs are a major issue requiring rapid response, as they present a significant danger to both workers and vessels alike. Other issues such as equipment failure, smoke inhalation, explosions, and falling objects can lead to fatalities if not handled quickly and appropriately. Getting on and off the rig is a hazard as well, with helicopter crashes contributing a significant portion of the industry's offshore fatalities. All in all, living and working on an offshore drilling rig presents many risks for those involved—which is why rigorous safety training is so essential for worker safety.
But last year, a new safety training system called INSITU was announced that sought to allow offshore workers to rehearse hundreds of different emergency situations. Today's article looks at what INSITU offers and whether systems like INSITU could make a difference.
What Is INSITU?
The INSITU safety training system is designed to provide offshore workers with the necessary skills and knowledge for any kind of emergency situation. The system offers a broad range of features, from lifeboat drills to helicopter crash simulations in a 10-meter pool. The system even allows for SCUBA rescue drills.
The philosophy underpinning the whole system is the need to rehearse emergency response in safety training. "Train, learn, rehearse. Train, learn, rehearse," says Chairman of Aquarius Global Rick Parish, whose company created the INSITU system. "Those vital words can make all the difference in offshore safety training, and which one day could save many lives."
INSITU consists of between 3 to 10 modular training pods that are configurable depending on the needs of the rig. Each mobile facility contains over 200 preloaded safety training courses that can prepare workers for any kind of survival incident, including helicopter accidents, rig fires, and falls from a great height. The 10-meter pool can also simulate ocean survival, life raft deployment, and other potential contingencies. INSITU also comes with classroom facilities to supplement the simulation training. All of these courses are taught by industry experts with decades of experience, providing thorough training based on real-life conditions workers will be facing. The versatility, depth, and breadth of the system of the INSITU system makes up the leading edge of offshore safety training.
The Potential Benefits of INSITU Training
INSITU's versatility is a key part of its benefit. It can be disassembled and reassembled anywhere in the world for rapid deployment. This flexibility allows workers to access training regardless of their offshore location. Additionally, all components are easily transportable and quickly assembled, making it highly efficient for time-sensitive situations. It requires only 90 days for assembly, unlike the industry-standard of 24 months for installing a fixed safety training site. All these things make it possible for workers all over the world to receive high-quality safety training.
Making safety training faster to implement also makes it less costly. Theoretically, smaller offshore companies would have the means to access the same training, which is vital for ensuring the whole industry becomes safer as a result. The ability to build training modules anywhere in the world also reduces the cost of transporting workers to permanent training facilities.
But perhaps the biggest benefit to workers who receive INSITU training is the ability to rehearse disaster responses. Ultimately, human beings learn best through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on responses. Learning emergency procedures for a helicopter crash or raft deployment is well and good, but the ability to actually react to a helicopter crash—to teach your body how to escape a confined space in rough waters quickly—is potentially life-saving. Increasing accessibility to a science-backed learning method by making it mobile could reshape how the offshore industry approaches safety training.
Limitations of INSITU & Other Cutting-Edge Training Tools
The history of offshore disasters demonstrates that a key problem is the willingness of offshore companies to invest in the safety and well-being of their employees. Deepwater Horizon, Piper Alpha, and countless other disasters named as the reason for INSITU's development weren't caused by a lack of expertise, necessarily—it was caused by poor management and a lack of investment in maintenance and safety.
One of INSITU's proposed benefits is its cost-effectiveness. Rapid 90-day assembly means the value of the overall training is higher than other safety training solutions. However, if companies aren't willing to invest in cutting-edge training for their workers, then the cost-effectiveness won't matter. Even worse, if the company provides high-quality safety training but continues short-staffing, poor maintenance, corner-cutting, and other bad practices, then the training won't make as much of a difference.
The Deepwater Horizon exploded, ultimately, because the rig was behind schedule and neglected vital tasks related to maintenance and improvement. Management pushed the rig and its team to the brink for the same of quarterly deadlines. Even with endless training and preparation, few people could ever be prepared for what happened that night as a result. The point is this: the success of INSITU and other safety training solutions—both on offshore rigs and in other high-risk industrial jobs—depends on a big-picture approach to safety. Training is necessary to prepare for disaster, but our firm sees investment in disaster prevention as far more crucial to people's lives. By putting time and effort into maintenance and adequate staffing, safety training would serve its intended purpose: as the final line of defense against life-threatening disaster.