North Sea climatic conditions dictate platform configuration and levels of training.
Recognition for Fire/Safety training by industry and creation of Montrose O.T.C.
Ongoing training offshore utilising visual aids.
Training in Pressure Control minimising well blow-outs.
Government interest and certification.
The Fire Service Act of 1947 places an obligation for fire fighting on the Local Authority, with section 30(3) of the Act defining its responsibility for maintaining control of any incident.
The Act is applicable only to onshore activities up to and including the low water mark, and does not apply to that part of the oil industry operating offshore below the low water mark.
Land based oil activities invariably require plant to be widely dispersed, thereby helping to minimise damage caused by possible domino effects in the event of fire or explosion. Such an arrangement at the same time assists in ensuring the speedy removal of the workforce to a safe area. Whilst operating staff are engaged in plant shut down activities, first aid fire fighting, designed to contain or extinguish fire can be safely initiated, in the knowledge that trained fire fighting capability will be quickly mobilised from both company and Local Authority resources.
North Sea environmental conditions have influenced the design of offshore platforms away from the concept of individual, multi-structured complexes linked together by walkways, found elsewhere in the world. North Sea conditions dictate massive single multi-level structures, with a total work area of about seven thousand square metres, where accommodation and work areas are superimposed over wellheads, topped off in turn by a helideck. These design features not only exacerbate problems associated with the evacuation of persons not directly involved in containment of the emergency, but necessitate platform design to cater for extensive compartmentation of hazardous areas, one from the other. A variety of techniques are of course used. Use of fire resistant materials, particularly on vertical and horizontal load bearing structures, extensive pressurisation and ventilation arrangements, as well as complex gas and fire detection systems tied into total flood inhibiting facilities. All of these techniques are far more extensive in range and volume than found elsewhere.
The integrity of fixed fire systems depends of course on a multiplicity of factors, many of which are beyond our control. Ultimately we must acknowledge that only the human element, appropriately trained, is capable of responding quickly enough to an ever changing emergency situation.
Fire training for the offshore oil industry takes place at the Offshore Training Centre at Montrose in Scotland. This purpose built facility was completed in 1978 at a cost of approximately £1,250,000 from monies subscribed by twelve major North Sea oil companies, including BNOC and British Gas. The facility was designed to provide a four day basic programme of fire training, including use of breathing apparatus, for all offshore oil workers, as well as to give more advanced fire training to selected personnel, such as fire crews and senior platform staff. The initial estimates of the total number of persons requiring training were based on eight thousand company employees plus an additional twelve thousand contractors and sub-contractors.