Feature Story: Safety Innovations 


A new passenger transportation suit is being designed for those who travel by helicopter to offshore platforms and rigs in the Atlantic offshore industry. The new suit is the first to meet the latest Canada General Standards Board (CGSB) standard and combines technological advances with the operator’s commitment to continuous improvement.

Helicopter Flight Suits to Improve Survival

“We operate in some severe conditions so our flight suits need to be designed to meet certain thermal and protective requirements,” says Gaelle Halliday, Logistics Co-ordinator with Husky Energy in St. John’s, N.L. Halliday is co-ordinating the roll out of the suits for operators offshore Newfoundland and Labrador; a colleague from ExxonMobil is doing the same for the Nova Scotia offshore. “The new suit reflects some of the advances in technology that have occurred since the previous standard, including less bulky thermal insulation and a double seal at the neck and wrists.”

The suit was developed by British manufacturer Survitec. Halliday and her team worked with Survitec to fine-tune the product following initial tests in the U.K and Canada. Workers from offshore facilities helped out, engaging in cold-water pool testing under realistic conditions including the wind, rain and wave situations one might encounter offshore Atlantic Canada. The effectiveness of the suit was also tested in rafts, jumping from heights, and in underwater helicopter escape scenarios. 

“Offshore workers are the primary end users of the suit, so it was important to get their feedback early in the process,” Halliday says. “While the overall design parameters were already established, we wanted worker input on placement of auxiliary equipment such as the HUEB A(Helicopter Underwater Emergency Breathing Apparatus). Worker feedback also led to changes in the design of the floatation device.”

Currently in the final fitting and manufacturing stages, the suit has a number of innovative features for improved comfort and safety that include:
  • Lightweight Gore-Tex material for improved thermal insulation, body temperature regulation, comfort and flexibility;
  • Yellow colour for better visual detection;
  • Neck and wrist seals with integrated hood and mitts, providing a double seal for improved watertight integrity;
  • Neoprene boots with less aggressive tread for improved safety, better fit, and no buoyancy;
  • Inflatable buoyancy element with inflatable spray hood and thermal head protection;
  • Increased HUEBA (Helicopter Underwater Emergency Breathing Apparatus) stowage;
  • Air release values at ankle and shoulder to vent residual air during immersion scenarios;
  • U-shaped shoulder-to-shoulder main zipper, making it easier to get on and off;
  • 32 suit sizes, including seven girth and two height ranges, for better fit and comfort.
The suit meets the new standard released by the Canadian General Standards Board in 2012. (However, it is important to note that existing suits meet all previous standards and are still approved for use.) Workers and training facilities will start using the new suits March 1, 2015 offshore Nova Scotia, and April 1, 2015 offshore Newfoundland and Labrador. 

MARIOS Bring Reliability to Asset Integrity

MARIOS, which stands for Materials and Reliability in Oil Sands, is an industry-directed consortium that uses applied research and development to create improved materials and equipment for oil sands operations. The goal is to develop technologies to reduce downtime and improve operational reliability and productivity.

An example of the consortium’s work is ongoing research into hydrotransport slurry lines—the pipes that carry bitumen and water for processing, and move tailings to tailing ponds at oil sands mining sites. According to MARIOS Program Director, John Wolodko, these pipelines can wear down in as little time as three months due to abrasion from the slurry and tailings, which have the effect of “liquid sandpaper” on the system. 

Through field tests, lab tests and a pilot scale slurry flow loop (an in-house pipeline network where the effects of different variables—such as ore composition and pipeline material—on wear performance can be tested), MARIOS has developed one of the most extensive databases with respect to the reliability and wear rates of different materials and pipe configurations. By applying these learnings, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, one of the members of MARIOS, reported a 73 per cent reduction in wear rate, resulting in savings of $4.8 million a year.

What does this have to do with safety? “Anything you can do to prevent an unexpected failure is essential to personnel and public safety,” says Wolodko. Moreover, reduced wear rate means a reduced need to rotate or replace the pipes, which means you are exposing workers to less overall risk.

The MARIOS initiative was launched by Alberta Innovates –Technology Futures (AITF) and includes membership by oil sands producers as well as supply chain providers. Other projects being researched include the development of overlay materials for mining shovel teeth and truck linings that have improved wear and corrosion resistance, optimized guidelines for arc welding, and a catalog of corrosion and scaling issues associated with in situ plants. For more information, visit www.marios-aitf.com.

Personal GPS Devices Protect Workers in Remote Locations

In Canada’s oil and gas industry, workers in the field are frequently required to work in remote, wilderness locations. The ability to stay in contact with these workers, and even to detect if they’ve had a fall or been incapacitated, could make the difference between help arriving in time or not, should a safety incident occur.

“Minimizing the time it takes to reach people in an emergency can make all the difference,” says Brendon Cook, chief technology officer and co-founder of Blackline GPS. Blackline has created an award-winning product designed to be carried by lone workers out in the field.

The Loner IS is a GPS location device that enables employers to monitor the safety of employees through a combination of automatic and manual safety alert features. For example, built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes are able to measure movement and determine if a fall has occurred (if a fall is detected, the worker has a certain time to confirm they are safe before an alert is sent to responders). The device also can be configured for periodic check-in, where vibration and visual requests remind a worker to check-in by pushing a button. Workers are also able to make manual calls for help and use a silent alert in sensitive situations

If a safety incident occurs, the Loner IS device communicates the employee’s identity, precise location and type of alert to monitoring personnel who can then manage a pinpoint emergency response.

The device is already being used in the oil and gas industry, including by a number of producer member companies, and service providers like J.B. Water & Vacuum Services (JBVW). JBVW Operation Manager Darryl Addison notes: “We need communication with lone field workers should an incident occur, particularly during the approaching busy winter months. It’s about ensuring that everyone makes it home safely at the end of each day. With the Blackline system, if a worker gets injured or incapacitated, or a truck becomes stuck in difficult terrain stranding an employee, both the supervisor and headquarters are notified of an alarm and the precise location within seconds.” For more information, visit www.blacklinesafety.com.

Member Companies Build Safety Culture

Part of safety innovation is finding new ways to bring safety issues and awareness to the forefront with employees—moving beyond purely functional safety orientations and information dissemination to programs that activate and inspire positive safety attitudes. Such programs are key to enhancing a robust and comprehensive safety culture throughout an organization.

Many CAPP member companies are engaged in these types of broad employee engagement safety programs. A sampling from submissions to the 2014 Responsible Canadian Energy (RCE) awards program include:

  • Chevron’s “Zero is Attainable” campaign was used during the operation of Chevron’s Margaree A-490 exploration well in the Orphan Basin offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador. Proper planning, teamwork and a “do it right – once, the first time” execution philosophy led to 306,176 person hours worked (from well planning to completions) without any recordable incidents.
  • Enerplus’ “Positive Attitudes to Controlling Hazards” (PATCH) program teaches workers, contractors and other stakeholders the step-by-step approach to hazard management: from recognition and anticipation to control and mitigation. To date, 98 per  cent of Enerplus field employees and over 20 per cent of office employees have taken the training.
  • Perpetual Energy’s “Triple Zero” paradigm shift in safety accountability and performance has a goal of zero lost-time injuries, zero vehicle accidents and zero spills. To achieve progress, the company created an effective hazard identification system and risk matrix. Perpetual positively reinforced good reports, has a company-wide safety orientation program, and implemented self- and peer-audit processes.
  • Shell’s Turnaround Goal Zero program was a response to poor safety performance at the Shell Scotford Upgrader in 2010. The program included safety workshops for workers, supervisors and site leaders, weekly health and safety meetings and daily feedback to workers to improve safety culture and performance. During the turnaround, Shell reduced recordable injuries from 12 to two.

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