The UK’s National Workboat Association is launching an ‘Understanding Fatigue’ campaign to combat crewmember fatigue on offshore energy support vessels.
This comes in direct response to widespread concerns about 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’ for clients. While this can initially manifest as a one-off instance of overtime, it can quickly lead to long days and inadequate rest periods becoming commonplace.
The 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. The offshore wind and workboat sectors must therefore collaborate to ensure that instances of fatigue are eliminated, 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 both shore-based management teams and workboat crewmembers themselves.
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 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 September 6th 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 said: “At last year’s Offshore Wind Safety Forum, fatigue was the most-discussed topic by far. It’s obviously a challenge for vessel operators, and it’s 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.”
“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.”
By Jake Frith