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It was announced on 23 August that the National Workboat Association, the safety standards, skills and trade association for the workboat industry of the United Kingdom, is taking steps to address the issue of crewmember fatigue in the offshore energy support vessel (OESV) sector through an official campaign and free poster resource.
This comes in direct response to widespread concerns over the occurrence of fatigue among workboat crewmembers. The challenge posed by fatigue was first highlighted by members of the workboat and offshore wind sectors at the NWA’s inaugural Offshore Wind Safety Forum, held in September 2017.
As wind farms increase in size, scale and technological advancement, OESV operators find themselves working further away from shore, with longer journey times and the potential for extended shift patterns. With project developers aiming to maximise the uptime of their contracted offshore workers, working hours can increase beyond advisable and on occasion legal limits, leaving crews overtired and vulnerable to making errors.
This situation is often compounded by the contractual relationships in offshore wind construction, which can see projects handed over to new, sometimes less experienced, coordination. As project timeline pressure increases, crews are often at risk of missing the signs of fatigue.
Furthermore, some OESV companies reported that crews felt a self-applied pressure to go above and beyond requirements for clients. While this can initially manifest itself as a one-off instance of overtime, it can quickly lead to long days with inadequate rest periods becoming commonplace.
Effects of extreme tiredness can include delayed reaction times, poor concentration, and a temptation to cut corners, all of which threaten the safety of crewmembers and the integrity of operations. Therefore the NWA believes that offshore wind and workboat sectors must collaborate to ensure that instances of fatigue are eliminated This can be achieved by educating the managers responsible for planning operations, and by teaching crewmembers how to spot, and report, instances of fatigue at sea.
Having undertaken a year’s industry research, the NWA is now launching an official campaign – Understanding Fatigue – to address the issue, targeting shore-based management teams and workboat crewmembers.
Management teams may need to review how they plan project operations to ensure that crews are well-rested and able to work safely and efficiently. Meanwhile, a free poster resource, sponsored by the MCA and The Shipowners’ Club, has been designed for display (see illustration here) on all OESVs, to help crewmembers to identify the signs of fatigue in themselves and others.
The poster will be officially launched at the second NWA / Offshore Wind Safety Forum, to be held on 6 September near Hull. This event will provide a platform for the discussion of fatigue issues and for distributing information and guidance from the NWA, one year on from the meeting at which the issue was first highlighted.
Mark Ranson, Secretary, NWA commented: ‘At last year’s Offshore Wind Safety Forum, fatigue was the most-discussed topic by far. It is obviously a challenge for vessel operators, and it is potentially dangerous for crews, so we wanted to research the reasons behind over-running working hours, and to empower the offshore wind and workboat industries to do something about it.’
He continued: ‘This is really the culmination of a year’s worth of research and development – and we hope that the poster campaign, and the opportunity to discuss the issue at our Safety Forum in September, will really galvanise all stakeholders to act and help to make a difference.’
Kerrie Forster, Chairman of the National Workboat Safety Forum, added: ‘We are really pleased so far with the positive response to the campaign within the industry. Researching the subject over the last year, we have been strongly supported by government and industry bodies, offshore wind farm operators and stakeholders – and of course vessel operators and their crews.
‘Together we are taking another strong step towards creating a safer and more efficient industry for the future. In order for the campaign to achieve maximum impact, we ask all OESV stakeholders, clients, and management to display the posters in their workplace in order to spread this important awareness.’
For more information on the Understanding Fatigue campaign, and to access further resources, readers are invited to visit:
About the National Workboat Association
The National Workboat Association (NWA) is the safety standards, skills and trade association for the UK workboat industry; it also has European workboat operators in its membership.
Since its inception in 1994, the NWA has acted as a crucial point of liaison between its membership and key regulatory and industry bodies, such as the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). It has also driven the creation of safety, technical and best practice standards, provided a unifying platform for industry lobbying and debate, and delivered industry-recognised training and certification opportunities.
Core achievements include the introduction and subsequent revision of the MCA Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Small Workboats – the Workboat Code – which acts as the recognised Technical Standard for UK workboats and has formed the basis for numerous international codes.
The NWA has a membership base of over 80 UK and European workboat owners and operators, collectively representing over 550 operational vessels.
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