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Teaching program on the appropriate use of helicopter transportation suit

Tests conducted in a wave pool according to the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association's (former OLF) test procedure for helicopter transportation suits, showed that the suits used in the North Sea until the summer of 2005, would not provide adequate protection against water intrusion during a stay in cold rough seas. In addition, the suit did not provide adequate face and mouth protection against over flushing water from breaking waves. Water intrusion in the survival suit will reduce the suit’s insulation significantly and may lead to reduced protection against hypothermia. Reduced protection against over flushing water can lead to inhalation of sea water and the danger of drowning.

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The improved helicopter survival suit HHE-352-4 which was launched in April 2004, after it was tested by OilComp according the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association's testing procedure in the autumn of 2003 / winter of 2004, had a better seal around face and sleeves to prevent water leaks, splash screens and inflatable neck collars to lift the head and protect against over flushing water and an emergency breathing system to supply air when evacuating from a water-filled helicopter.

Equipment that requires a lot of handling knowledge imply a need for training if they are to function properly in an emergency situation. OilComp was commissioned by the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association's to develop proposals for training plans and curriculum for the OLF course in basic sea rescue. As a result, many centers started using exposure to waves and wind in their training, so that it would be as realistic as possible and lead to the correct use of the suits.

OilComp also developed a one-hour course which 18,000 offshore workers have taken in connection with departure from the heliport or out on the installation. By the use of a suit, various suit components and footage from realistic test situations, the travelers were shown how to behave in large waves (one should not stand in the water, but lie horizontally with the head against waves and wind). There were also taught how to evacuate a water-filled helicopter and how to link together with fellow passengers in order to being spotted more easily and to get support and a feeling of safety as a result of being in a larger group.  

The prerequisites for being able to survive a longer stay in the cold rough seas are therefore the ability to properly suit up (e.g. the zipper completely pulled up to prevent water leaks, remove the splash screen etc.) and the knowledge on how to act properly in different situations. Regular exercise is needed in order to master this in an emergency or evacuation situation.

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