Paramedics who double as technicians are set to be introduced to N. Sea offshore wind farms in an initiative backed by an innovation funding pot.
Experienced life-savers are being trained for operational duties on remote turbines so they can carry out a combined maintenance and medical role.
The pioneering concept is being brought to the emerging wind farm hub of East Anglia by SSI Energy, thanks to a £50,000 grant from the Supply Chain innovation for Offshore Renewable Energy scheme which promotes new ideas and efficiency improvements in offshore renewables.
SSI Energy currently has four paramedics working on wind farms in Poland, Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as offshore medics at various global oil and gas companies.
Under the venture, fully-equipped technician paramedics will be able to tackle medical emergencies such as strokes, heart and asthma attacks and anaphylactic shock, as well as the full range of traumatic emergencies including open fracture, and falls from height.
It provides a significantly higher-grade service to that offered currently. At present the only medical cover is provided by fellow technicians who are required to undergo only the two-day GWO (Global Wind Organisation) first aid course, compared to the four years of paramedics. This service enables patients and casualties to get expert help in the first “golden hour” which is vital to boosting chances of recovery.
The requirement to have a medic has been typical in the oil and gas industry for the last 30 years, with a medic, or in some cases a doctor, based on the platform, rig or vessel. With wind farms being built further offshore than ever before, the need for having greater medical protection is exactly the same.
Earlier this year SSI Energy medic technician Peter Lane saved a colleague who was taken ill at a wind turbine training centre in Ireland. The medic spotted the symptoms, realised it was a heart attack, and drove him to a filling station seven miles away to rendezvous with an ambulance.
The casualty twice went into cardiac arrest at the garage, but Lane had grabbed a defibrillator from the training centre, shocked him back to life and gave CPR resuscitation until the casualty was sufficiently stabilised to be able to able to be moved to hospital. The casualty has made a full recovery after having stents fitted to his heart.
Duncan Higham, Managing Director, SSI Energy, said the incident was the ‘perfect example’ of the difference between life and death technician medics could have on offshore, and onshore, wind farms.
He added: “Wind farms are pretty safe but if someone gets hurt or taken ill it could be a long wait for a helicopter or lifeboat.
“If the casualty had been up an 80m turbine offshore, with only a first aider on hand, he would have been unlikely to survive.”