Offshore Safety Training: Part Two

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – This massive pool and that massive contraption you see hovering above it is intended to save lives. In a matter of seconds, that huge metal tube is dunked into the water, and flipped upside down. With people inside. Soon it will be my turn.

“We actually can provide that training where they’re actually in a helicopter simulator,” explained Chris Broussard, Safety Management System’s training center supervisor.

It’s called the METS unit, which stands for Modular Egress Training Simulator. The water survival training is done at the Acadian company’s Safety Management Systems training academy on North University Avenue in Lafayette. Broussard said most drilling is done in deep water, requiring workers to travel to and from the platform by helicopter.

“They actually ditch into the pool and they have be trained on the steps and procedures to be able to hopefully evacuate that helicopter in a safe way,” Broussard said.

In part one, I showed you how workers learn how to free themselves from the simulator. The unit also flips over. Trainees need to unbuckle their seat belts, push out a window, and swim to safety. Rescue divers are in the water in case anything goes wrong.

Jeff Willis of Lafayette is planning to work offshore in India. He hasn’t worked offshore for years and said they didn’t have this type of training back then.

Now I’m not heading offshore. But I wanted to see if I could handle it. Instructors say they’ve seen grown men cry going through this. So what could I expect?

“Well water up your nose of course,” Willis said. “A little disorientation as you flip over trying to find your exit and get out but if you remain calm everything will be fine.”

Remain calm. Getting briefed by training instructor Mike Niland certainly helped. And then it was time. I managed to unbuckle my seat belt, push out the window and swim to shore. I’m underwater for about eight seconds.

“Good job,” one of the instructors called to me.

“Not too bad, not too bad,” I said as I swam to the side of the pool.

“Perfect. That was perfect,” the instructors called out.

But this machine wasn’t done with me yet. The second try would test my courage and resolve. The simulator dunks me in the water and then turns 180 degrees! I’m under water for about 11 seconds, but it sure felt a lot longer to me.

“A bit harder that time,” I said as I emerged from the water and began swimming to the pool’s edge.

“Felt the burn up your nose?” one of the instructors called out.

“I did but I didn’t panic. I was like this close and I was like nah, don’t panic.”

“You did good. That was awesome,” the instructors exclaimed.

“Thank you,” I replied.

Many employers require this type of training. And many employees come back here every few years to get recertified. It’s a facility SMS is extremely proud of.

“It’s really about making sure that those workers get home safe every day or after a hitch or at the end of the day working and that’s really at the end of the day what’s so important,” said SMS Vice President Courtney Juneau.

Safety Management Systems usually trains about 30,000 workers a year. That number is down because of the downturn in the oil and gas industry. SMS still primarily works with the oil industry, but it’s now offering training to the construction industry and others.

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