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Safety in numbers for Wood Training

Wood Group's New Plymouth submersible helicopter escape training facility

It’s a routine helicopter flight to an offshore rig for a group of oil and gas workers. Without warning, the engine coughs and the rotors slow, sending the chopper diving towards the ocean. The skilful pilot manages to control the descent and drops the helicopter in the water. Sea water quickly invades the cabin and the weight of the rotors flips the helicopter as it sinks.

Despite being upside down and strapped in, the well-trained passengers and crew quickly, calmly and safely, undo their seatbelts, pop a window, and swim out and clear of the helicopter. They then huddle together, ready to be winched to safety.

It’s a scenario thousands of people have been expertly prepared for thanks to international training and safety provider Wood Training and its extensive purpose-built marine training centre in New Plymouth, which boasts a 10mx15m indoor pool and a fully submergible helicopter module.

Wood Training has been operating for more than 20 years providing technical training and expertise across a wide range of vocational learning and safety courses and services. Its New Zealand offices and training site are in New Plymouth, where 16 office staff and as many trainers and instructors are based. Wood Training is part of the greater Wood family, which boasts 60,000 employees across 60 countries.

While its services continue to grow and develop, Wood Training has long been known as New Zealand’s pre-eminent provider of safety training for the oil and gas industry. It is New Zealand’s only provider of Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO) accreditation, which is an internationally recognised qualification every person who goes offshore must hold.

Wood Training general manager Brian Souness says the company’s membership of the Energy and Industrial Group (EIG) has helped it build a strong relationship with the oil and gas industry and now across other energy and industrial sectors.

“Historically we have sat in the hydrocarbon area, but our future is looking to also move into other industry, including the dairy industry, pulp and paper, and other energy businesses,” Brian says.

“It’s about networking. For us, having the ability to sit around a collective group and share marketing knowledge and intel about industry projects coming up is very important, which is what the EIG facilitates.

“Equally, from a solution perspective, the businesses within the group can leverage off each other and team up. It’s about greater strength together,” he says.

Wood Training’s marine training centre is a busy place. At least once a week, Wood Training holds a two-day Basic Offshore Safety Induction & Emergency Training (BOSIET) course, and regularly holds the one-day Further Offshore Emergency Training (FOET) course – a four-yearly refresher course for those who work offshore. The New Zealand Defence Force also regularly uses the centre for helicopter or vehicle underwater escape training.

Aside from the helicopter module, the marine training centre includes a high platform used to simulate jumping from a rig, a life raft, a scramble net, breathing apparatus, and survival suits. Firefighting is also part of the BOSIET course, and Wood Training has converted a container for use in various fire scenarios – wood, gas, and pot fires. The company also has a portable fire training trailer, which it operates throughout the country.

Wood Training operations manager Tania Garrett says they are proud of the centre and the courses developed, which are stringently audited every year.

“We’ve got experienced trainers and assistants, most of whom have lengthy industry experience, and they are fabulous with all the people that come through for training,” Tania says.

“Being in the water, strapped into a seat with all the gear on and, in particular, upside down, is not a comfortable environment. We have an instructor in the module with the four trainees, there are two lifeguards on duty outside the pool, and two divers under the water observing. They are really good at helping the trainees through, particularly those who aren’t confident in the water.”

With e-training becoming popular, the first components of the BOSIET course, which are classroom-based, can now be completed online.

“The classroom is a significant part of our activity, but equally we need to make sure we modify our training delivery and online is gaining momentum,” Brian says.

“There are a number of personnel who may be working offshore or overseas, who can’t take two days out of their work schedule to come and do the BOSIET. So the online component can be done over a month or so, module by module, then they can come here for the one-day practical element.

“Our focus is on delivering to the market need and increasing our reach and services, such as for the new energy industry as we work towards a low-carbon environment. So, if the need is for more online, then we will look to deliver that.”

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