Saturday, August 06, 2011

Welcome to heli

There are so many things people do not know about how things work in the oil and gas industry.

For example, people think you can just board a chopper and fly to the oil platforms. No, it's not that simple. You need training before you can go to an oil platform.

This is because the platforms are a sensitive area. One wrong move and things can go *TEBA-BO!!!* -- or however you would spell the sound of explosions.

Also, being hundreds of kilometres away from shore, the sea may not be... well, let's just say the sea may not be the calm, pretty waters you get in Tioman or Perhentian. And in worst case scenarios, you need to know how to stay alive for days, even weeks, in the water before help arrives.

Which is why, oil companies have made it compulsory for everyone going to oil platforms for work or even a short visit to sit for a safety course.

Called BOSET, or Basic Offshore Safety and Emergency Training, the three-day course is designed to equip you with basic skills for handling emergencies.

I was privileged enough to be assigned by my company to attend BOSET in preparation for an offshore study visit.

I learnt useful BOSET skills like firefighting, CPR, sea survival and many more.

But really, the heart of BOSET is HUET, or Helicopter Underwater Escape Training. When people, especially first timers, talk about BOSET, this is what they fear the most.

HUET is supposed to simulate a helicopter crash landing at sea and going below. Once underwater, you're supposed to unbuckle yourself, pop open the window and swim to the surface.

But not before waiting for at least 10 seconds for the main rotor to stop turning, otherwise you risk getting decapitated.

Hence, welcome to heli.

We do not use real helis for the training, only a fibreglass shell with cockpit and windows made to look like a heli.

It's a straightforward affair: you get into the simulator, buckle up and wait for the instructors to submerge the heli. Then you escape.

You do not need to be a good swimmer to do this exercise, but you do need some measure of water confidence.

In the old days, trainees had to hold their breaths during HUET. Not anymore. In 2008, a thingamajig called Emergency Breathing System (EBS) was introduced. It's basically a rebreather integrated into your life jacket that allows you to breath underwater for a good one minute or so.

If you're already a scuba diver, this is kacang putih (piece of cake).

Each of us got to perform the HUET four times, two of which with the heli turned upside-down. It was fun.

Apart from HUET, we also learnt skills such as how to jump from height without having the lifejacket bashing your face and how to minimise heat loss from long hours in the water by using the HELP and Huddle positions.

I passed my BOSET without any problem.

I'm glad I went for BOSET. Apart from enjoying myself, there was a take-home message: that just because you're a diver or swimmer, doesn't mean you automatically know how to save yourself at sea. For your own survival, everyone should be open to learning.


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