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Training simulation aids safety and competence

On offshore installations, cranes are the main artery for supplies and equipment but operating one is not an easy task. Working alone in a crane cab at height, and in potentially challenging weathers, crane operators need numerous attributes.

A head for heights, remaining calm under pressure and the ability to use their own judgement to make decisions are essential. It’s vital that crane operators undergo comprehensive training and on-going competence assessment to maintain the required skill level for this safety critical role.

Working to supply competent crane operators since the beginning of the UK oil industry in the North Sea, Sparrows Group developed a formal training and competence programme that is now recognised as the ‘de facto’ industry standard for offshore crane operators.

World class facilities for world leading training

Our Tyrebagger training facility in Aberdeen is the only one of its kind with a full-size offshore pedestal crane located within a secure training environment. Located over a flooded quarry that has a floating pontoon, this offers candidates a unique development opportunity to gain essential height and distance judgement when practising offloading and backloading of supply vessels.

Although the pedestal crane is an important learning tool to aid novice crane operators in understanding the precision and technique required in the role, it can’t provide all the scenarios needed to test operators’ competence.

Crane simulators are valuable in complementing the training undertaken on the pedestal crane. They allow the crane operator to be exposed to a range of potential issues that can be faced in the real working environment where critical decisions must be made­–such as engine failure, electronic issues or failures, hydraulic issues, and slings snapping­–to test knowledge of equipment and functions, ensuring they can quickly recognise an unusual situation and react appropriately to make the load, crane, and installation safe. Testing these reflexes for an emergency could not be replicated on a real crane without catastrophic damage.

Simulated environment

Increasing demand for emergency preparedness training is why we’ve invested in a second full-size simulator which has just been installed at our Tyrebagger training centre. With a bespoke frame for additional screens, the ADS2-Crane from RelyOn Nutec Simulation also features the new Sparrows SLI system designed in-house.

Simulators allow crane operators to be familiarised with many of the external factors experienced in the field in a controlled and interactive environment. Using the simulator in conjunction with the pedestal crane ensures operators are more prepared than ever for the offshore environment.

The addition of a second crane simulator allows us to expand delivery of crane operator training, supporting different training courses as well as conducting the re-assessment of competent crane operators on a two-yearly rolling cycle.

Training delivery

The Sparrows Offshore Crane Operator Standard follows a stepped progression route in three stages, combining formal and practical training with the theory of safe crane operations. Workplace exposure is also required where operations are conducted under the direct supervision of a competent crane operator and the trainee logs evidence dependent on their phase of development.

Sparrows Training Offshore Crane Operator Standard

Other training courses, such as emergency crane operations or reaction and awareness training, have been designed to be delivered on a crane simulator, giving candidates an opportunity to increase their operational hours and develop their knowledge and exposure to different installations. These aim to ensure that operators, or those with emergency responsibility on minimally manned installations, have the awareness and knowledge to manage a crane safely in event of equipment failure or an emergency.

Our industry-leading standards are delivered by our staff of expert trainers. All our trainers are selected for their technical knowledge and industry experience, undergoing workplace assessment combined with in-house mentoring to ensure delegates are trained to the highest standards.

Value of competence

Advancements in technology have made many aspects of the offshore industry safer and improved crane operations. Operators now have far more information at their fingertips about the external environment which helps them make decisions by mitigating risk.

However, making the final decisions on whether a load is safe to be lifted depends on the knowledge and competence of the crane operator. Any lapses in judgement could have disastrous consequences, making ongoing training and assessment vital.

Over the past five years, our Tyrebagger facility has trained and assessed more than 15,000 personnel in lifting operations training and an estimated 80% of North Sea crane operators have been trained by Sparrows. Our industry-leading standard applies our more than 45 years’ experience in lifting operations, training, and competence assessment to ensure the safety of lifting operations across industries globally.

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