The Weekly Reflektion Week 07 / 2020

In our Weekly Reflektion last week, week 6/2020 we discussed the explosion on the Rough platform in 2006. This week’s Reflektion considers the evacuation and the challenges in launching the lifeboat.

Are you carrying out your training on equipment and systems that are the same as the equipment and systems you use in practice? Sometimes and someday the difference may be so significant that the function of the equipment or system will not be fulfilled.

On the morning of 16th February 2006 there was an explosion on the central processing platform of the Rough facility in the Southern North Sea followed by a fire that engulfed the platform. Two people received burn injuries, however these were not serious. The Rough facility consists of three separate platforms that are bridge-linked. Following the explosion a number of people escaped from the central processing platform over the bridge to the compression platform. There is no helideck on the compression platform so a decision was made to evacuate these people by lifeboat. All the people were aboard the lifeboat and the coxswain started going through the lifeboat launch procedure. The procedure stated that the engine should be started before launch and this was considered important to prevent the lifeboat drifting towards the burning platform. The mood among the people on board was calm yet apprehensive since the fire was still raging and there was still the risk of a further explosion and escalation. The coxswain couldn’t start the engine and over a short period of time the mood changed and the people started to become concerned that they were in real danger. The pressure mounted on the coxswain to get the lifeboat launched, as he foundered in his attempts. Eventually he radioed the control room for help and received the following question ‘Have you opened the valve?’ The coxswain did not know what valve was being referred to and eventually found out that it was the valve on the hydraulic system that provided the engine start. The coxswain realized what to do, the engine was started and the lifeboat launched. The people were later picked up by the standby boat.

The coxswain was relatively new to the Rough facility and had recently been on a lifeboat coxswain course. The lifeboat he trained on had an electric start and he had learned the electric start procedure. The lifeboat on the compression platform had a hydraulic start that he had never seen before. Neither was he aware that the lifeboat on Rough was different from the lifeboat he had trained on.

Training on equipment and systems, in particular safety and response equipment and systems, should be carried out on the same equipment and systems that are installed on the facility. If this is not possible or practicable then the training procedures should ensure the people are aware of the differences. Sitting in a lifeboat, with flames licking around your bottom, is not the place to be when you discover the lifeboat crew cannot get the lifeboat launched. Let’s not create a panic out of an emergency situation.  

Reflekt AS