RenewableUK speaks to Andrew Saunders of Equinor about their ‘safety by design’ concept for the world’s largest offshore wind farm.
Dogger Bank Offshore Wind Farm has already accomplished several milestones. It is the largest offshore wind farm in the world. It is the first wind farm in the UK to utilise HVDC technology. The project is also the first around the globe to install the 13MW and 14MW variants of GE’s Haliade-X turbine – which can power a UK household for two days with a single rotation. In addition, Dogger Bank has pioneered a new approach to health and safety. This is not only a priority for the consortium of organisations behind the project, but has also been recognised and praised by industry experts during the Global Offshore Wind Awards 2022.
Andrew Saunders, Dogger Bank Prepare for Operations Manager at Equinor, considers some of the unique health and safety challenges faced for this project and what was needed to overcome them:
“The sheer scale of this development was a massive challenge for many different reasons. The three development areas of the wind farm together fill a larger area than Greater London at 1675km2 and are more than 130km from the coast. This is a huge jump from the majority of wind farms built to date, which are closer to an average of 50km2 in size and around 20km from the shore.
“Transporting personnel is just one of the difficulties these distances presented. It takes almost 15 hours to get people to and from the furthest location, and the conditions of travel can be particularly challenging so far from the coast. The middle of the North Sea gets some extreme weather, with average significant wave heights increasing from around 1m closer to land, to 2m in height.
“How we overcame this – like many of the challenges faced – was to utilise experience transfer and learning opportunities. We introduced people and technology from the oil & gas sector, as well as harnessing the power of collective knowledge from the offshore wind industry. We collaborate as part of the G+ Global Offshore Wind Health and Safety Organisation, which provides access to industry-wide statistics, ideas and outcomes. Our use of and involvement with this initiative was a key pillar in our nomination for the Global Offshore Wind Awards as it demonstrates a total commitment to developing, following and sharing best practice health and safety protocols.
“We looked at the most common incidents across the sector and incorporated preventive measures into our project design from the very beginning. This is how we implement our ‘safety by design’ ethos. The forum also gives us a platform to share our own learning and accomplishments from Dogger Bank with the wider industry and we hope that what we feedback will help the sector as it matures. Success in health and safety isn’t something anyone should keep a secret. It should be shared so that the safety and wellbeing of everyone working in renewable energy – or any other related industry – can be protected in the best possible way. We’re looking to make a game-changing impact for everyone involved in offshore industries and want to drive and inspire others to look at similar initiatives and/or designs to improve safety elsewhere in the sector.”
Engagement with the wider offshore wind and green energy market, as well as collaboration between project partners, are the foundations on which Dogger Bank has been built. Andrew comments:
“Good collaboration with everyone involved at Dogger Bank is essential. We’re striving for a solution-oriented approach for this project and are keen not to solve one problem and create another. We work with a diverse range of people from designers to users, risk assessment specialists and more – it’s important that everyone has a voice. Our culture at Dogger Bank and Equinor is one of openness and collaboration. We’re not afraid of trying something new but we do everything we can to first mitigate any potential risks.
“In addition, we want to anticipate and eliminate potential health and safety issues at every single stage. While the operations and maintenance team will be the longest users, we strive to ensure the wellbeing of people involved in everything from fabrication of equipment and components, to their installation. One injury in any phase of development is too many.”
These were just some of aspects that were identified and praised as part of the Global Offshore Wind Awards, during which Dogger Bank was applauded for its unparalleled commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of its teams. Reflecting on what this win means for the company and what is coming next, Andrew adds:
“We truly believe that we’ve done something different at Dogger Bank and it’s an honour to be recognised for this by industry experts. Applying what we’ve done at the scale we have had to do it has been an incredible challenge. For instance, we’ve removed a million lifting activities, replaced manual handling for thousands of tonnes of material and minimised exposure to large falls, all preventing future incidents. The award is a testament to the hard work that has gone into considering and improving health and safety standards.
“Safety never stops, so we won’t be resting on our laurels. We have done great things but the job is not finished. The next phase of the project will be ramping up construction and moving towards operation. We want our teams to really understand the risks and how to mitigate or eliminate them in the design stages. For example, we provided excavator training on our onshore cable route. There is a red zone where drivers have poor visibility, so we gave all our workers the opportunity to experience this first-hand in order to better appreciate the physical difficulties of the job and better mitigate potential issues down the line.
“The culture of the project remains key. If we continue to foster a positive approach to safety and wellbeing, empowering every individual to assess situations and speak out wherever something could be done better, we will succeed. People are excited to start working with the innovative new technology and safety protocols we have implemented and we can’t wait to see what the future holds!”
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