In the wake of the Piper Alpha disaster, there has been considerable concern about the safety of people working in the hostile environment of North Sea oil rigs.
Aberdeen College, Scotland's largest further education college, is a prize winner for its pioneering work with the oil industry in developing explosion risk training courses for electrical workers. For the past four years, the college has been running its own certificated courses, but has now forged links with electrical company James Scott and design and oil consultants JCE (Aberdeen) Ltd to build a training unit which can train up to 24 workers each week.
This is the first nationally recognised training course in this safety area, validated and assessed by the electrical validation body JTL. It is aimed at workers involved with installing, maintaining and inspecting electrical equipment on rigs. The unit simulates hazardous situations, with the trainees having to deal with preprogrammed faults in pieces of equipment, ranging from relatively straightforward wiring problems to potential explosions. "This facility is the first of its kind in Europe," said college principal Rae Angus.
"It's a mixture of theory and hands-on practice. They learn to do a range of things, doing what they would do offshore in controlled circumstances. Industry itself has the key role in shaping the provision." The college has trained more than 200 electrical workers since 1993, and has delivered a theoretical course in Singapore to delegates from a range of countries.
There are currently 2,500 electrical workers in the North Sea offshore industry, but the college believes its courses are also relevant to the 17,500 registered electricians in Scotland, and to those elsewhere in the country. "Everyone who works in a potentially explosive atmosphere may soon have to be certificated, and that includes people in petrol stations," Mr Angus said. Hazardous working conditions go beyond potential explosions, the problems of water and dust calling for training courses for electrical workers in distilleries, paper mills, textile mills and farms as well as the onshore petrochemical industry.