Following on from his blog earlier this month, we asked our QuikDeck® champion, Kevin Nelson, to dive a bit deeper into the factors that make technical construction offshore, particularly in awkward or difficult-to-reach spaces, such a challenge.
Kevin, can you tell us more about the difficulties of planning and executing construction work offshore?
As a multi-discipline, work at height construction partner, we work with many of the challenges you mentioned on a daily basis. If the challenges are not managed, the result can be congestion (in the schedule and on the decks) increasing costs, worsening structural condition, and worst case, it could lead to health and safety hazards.
You could argue that offshore projects are most impacted by the weather or the logistical challenges of getting the right equipment to site at the right time, but there are other things to take into account.
Space constraints: this is one of the more obvious ones – confined or restricted spaces on offshore structures, such as oil rigs, platforms, and vessels, typically limit space for construction activities. This can make it difficult to manoeuvre equipment and materials and can lead to congestion on decks and other critical areas.
Safety hazards: confined spaces can be inherently hazardous environments due to the potential for confined space-related incidents, such as fires, explosions, and toxic gas exposure. Proper safety measures, training, and equipment are essential to mitigate these risks.
Access: leading on from that last point, getting workers in and out of confined spaces safely can be challenging. Confined spaces often have limited access points, and evacuation during emergencies can be complicated.
Structural integrity: a critical consideration at every stage of a scope. The structural integrity of offshore platforms and structures can be compromised during construction, by the work itself depending on the scope, or if heavy equipment and materials are being moved around.
The consequences of a structural failure have catastrophic potential, so planning, risk-profiling, engineering work, and project management elements are critical.
So, how do we tackle these challenges? What works for our clients?
For me, across all our scopes, good communication between workers, supervisors, and support teams onshore is the foundation. Before everything else, that must be in place. The other mitigations that we find most effective are:
Equipment and technology: This is a big one, challenging spaces call for specialised tools. At AquaTerra Group, our suite of equipment and tech includes our modular suspended access system, QuikDeck® – it’s probably one of our most-deployed solutions for accessing challenging, hard-to-reach areas. It can be constructed on the deck and put into place, or it can be put together in-situ by our experienced, multi-disciplined crews. Once in place with the barriers up, it provides group fall protection, meaning that crews can work on it safely without individual fall protection, giving them the freedom and flexibility to carry out their tasks.
In confined spaces, it provides an accessible work platform that can fit more spaces than conventional scaffolding, without the need for extensive support structures. From this platform, workers have space to work in safety with whatever additional safety apparatus needed.
The system itself also provides the flexibility to undertake complex tasks such as cross-hauling structural beams while retaining the integrity and safety of its own structure, saving time, manpower and budget.
Workforce competency: Offshore construction requires a skilled and experienced workforce. At AquaTerra Group, we have the people ready to perform, however difficult the challenge.
Drawn from a wide range of industry backgrounds, AquaTerra’s project teams have the understanding and technical skills to find a solution that works.