After incidents, U.S. regulator advises extreme caution during swing rope transfers
Following reviews of injuries sustained during swing rope transfers at offshore installations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has made several recommendations for oil and gas operators and contractors, in a bid to avoid such incidents in the future.
In a safety alert published last week, BSEE pointed out that personnel transfers using swing ropes and baskets present a considerable risk for offshore workers. The offshore safety watchdog illustrates this with a most recent example of a fractured foot sustained by a worker attempting to use a swing rope to board a satellite platform from a work boat.
The incident occurred when the worker placed his foot on a bumper tire to position himself for the swing, as the captain manoeuvred the boat. The worker’s foot slipped between the tire and the boat when the tire hit the platform, resulting in injury.
As outlined in BSEE Safety Alert No. 331, issued on 4 April 2018, the inherent danger of these operations led the regulator to recommend that operators perform hazard analyses both at the facility level and task-level to help mitigate these risks.
To further hammer home the importance of extreme caution during swing rope transfers, BSEE also lists other swing rope incidents it had reviewed since issuing Safety Alert No. 331. These include a case where an employee lacerated his shin after it struck the rear of a vessel, as he was completing a swing.
In addition, an employee fell into the water between a workboat and a platform when he misjudged the distance between the boat’s deck and the top of a swell during a swing rope transfer. As he made his swing, the wave shifted the boat, moving the landing area. When the employee let go of the swing rope, he fell into the water. He was quickly retrieved from the water and did not sustain injuries.
Taking into consideration its findings, BSEE recommends that operators and their contractors, where appropriate, treat all offshore personnel transfers as stand-alone operations and conduct a formal risk assessment before a transfer occurs. A stop work authority should be initiated, if there are any concerns regarding the safety of the operation.
Furthermore, BSEE recommends that operators and contractors verify personnel competencies regarding the proper utilisation of swing ropes on offshore assets where swing ropes are used to ensure all personnel members understand and recognise the applicable safety aspects.
Bearing in mind the inherent risks involved, BSEE also recommends using alternative methods where practicable; routinely ensuring the adequacy of training and competency assessments of everyone involved with personnel transfer responsibilities; following IADC Correct Usage of Rope Swings guidelines.
Moreover, BSEE explains that additional risk assessments and verification of vessel seaworthiness include, but are not limited to, ensuring clear visibility of the transfer area directly or via closed-circuit television (CCTV); ensuring deck space in the transfer area is free from obstructions; ensure there is clear space for vessel crew members to assist transferring personnel and install non-slip deck coatings at and around the transfer location; and ensuring the functionality of personnel locator beacon (PLB) system for man overboard incidents.
Additionally, this entails determining the ability to recover a person from the water using only the minimum number of persons onboard; verifying the functionality of Offshore Personnel Transfer Systems (OPTS) that are installed onboard platforms and vessels for the purpose of providing safe transfer of personnel; and considering using gangway systems or elevated structures (Jump Box) to equalise or elevate personnel so they never have to swing upward to a vessel or platform.
Regarding BSEE’s recent activities, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement come up with five recommendations for oil and gas operators, after looking into circumstances surrounding an injury at an offshore installation in the Gulf of Mexico.