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Deadly blind spots

Excluding major disasters such as Alexander L Kielland and Piper Alpha, almost half of all fatal accidents on the NCS relate to crane and lifting operations – or materials handling in general.

Progress has been made during recent years in developing Norwegian and international standards for the design and operation of cranes and for lifting operations. New guidelines for personnel training have also contributed to improving the quality of such mechanical handling activities.

A trend towards more integrated solutions for drilling areas and equipment on new rigs is seen as positive by principal engineer Sigurd Førsund, a PSA expert on cranes and lifting.

“But we still have a long way to go in finding good integrated answers for other types of lift, such as the offshore cranes used in part to load and discharge equipment and materials.

“Mechanising such work poses major challenges, because so many different materials and goods need to be handled. But research is under way to find ways of automating much of the job.”

A particularly challenging safety issue has proved to be “blind” lifts, where the design of an installation prevents a crane driver from seeing where loads are picked up or placed.

Even newer facilities have still not been configured to eliminate such problems in routine lifting operations. “We’ve raised this issue with the companies and asked them to work on the problem in a more systematic manner,” explains Mr Førsund.

“In our view, they should make greater use of findings from detailed material handling analyses when designing storage and lifting areas.

“These zones should be designed in such a way that the operators of offshore cranes or other lifting devices always have an unhindered view of the load.”

He says that the PSA feels the prevailing regulations and norms provide good references for handling the safety aspects of lifting operations.

“However, compliance with the regulations could have been better, both on newbuildings and when modifying existing installations.”

By Odd Bjerre Finnestad