"When we first started working with Norwegian operators, it was very encouraging to see their readiness to look at data objectively and take positive steps to introduce a risk-based approach to their operations," comments Philip Strong, Managing Director of Reflex Marine Limited.
For six years now, Reflex Marine has been working with companies in Norway to provide a safe means of transferring personnel by crane. In the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, the use of a crane to transfer people – regardless of the transfer device – is not common, with the vast majority of crew transfers taking place by helicopter.
However, Philip points out that key players within the industry recognise the importance of having a reliable and safe transfer device available to move their crews, if required: "These Norwegian operators understand that helicopters cannot fly in all circumstances, for example in fog, and that, in certain situations, transferring personnel by crane is a safer and more immediately available option."
Produced by Reflex Marine, the "Frog" is the ideal solution, providing protection against the four main risks of being transferred by crane – the seats and seat-belts virtually eliminate the risk of personnel falling mid-transfer, the feet and the suspension under the seats protect against heavy landings, the frame protects against lateral impacts and the buoyancy ensures that the Frog is self-righting and floats, if immersed in water. The Frog can transfer three people at a time, or one person plus a stretcher.
Prior to the Frog being introduced to any Norwegian installations, Reflex Marine was advised that EC Type Approval was required to show that the Frog complied with the EC Machinery Directive (equivalent to the UK Supply of Machinery Regulations). Over a period of eighteen months, Det Norske Veritas (DNV) in Bergen, examined every aspect of the design of the Frog, the manufacturing processes and quality procedures, scrutinised the risk assessment, operating instructions and maintenance procedures and witnessed horizontal and vertical impact testing, prior to awarding the Frog an EC Type Approval (CE mark) Certificate. This type approval also enables the Frog to comply with the NORSOK R-03 standard ('Safe use of lifting equipment’) implemented in 2004.
Reflex Marine initiated and developed relationships with companies in Norway through exhibiting the Frog at ONS, holding local demonstration events, visiting training schools and meeting with operators individually. From the outset, feedback was solicited by Reflex Marine which resulted in improvements to the Frog and the support services offered. These steps, combined with the obvious advantages of the equipment itself, led to the Frog becoming the preferred choice for the majority of the Norwegian operators. An HSE representative on one installation in Norway commented that the Frog was, "…the best thing we have had offshore in years" and twenty-six installations in Norway now benefit from having a Frog.
"Norway is a significant market for us," Philip concludes, "and it has been a privilege to work with Norwegian companies. Their focus on using the best means possible, rather than adopting a 'make-do’ attitude has been very refreshing."