Chute based emergency evacuation system

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 3: 2016 

During an emergency situation on an offshore facility, personnel must be able to safely evacuate. If helicopter evacuation is not feasible, the primary means of evacuation is typically by Totally Enclosed Motor Propelled Survival Craft (TEMPSC). However, in an emergency situation the route to TEMPSC muster stations may be blocked, and therefore the secondary means of evacuation for personnel will usually be by liferafts. Traditionally a liferaft is launched by throwing the capsule in which it is contained over the edge of the facility into the sea. To reach the liferaft personnel must then descend to sea level via scramble nets, ladders, ‘donut’ descender or by jumping off the facility.

During a recent planned inspection of a new production facility, NOPSEMA inspectors had the opportunity to inspect the first chute based emergency evacuation system installed offshore in Australia. The escape chute consists of an enclosed chute made of fire-resistant materials, with integrated liferafts for safe and fast transfer of personnel to sea level. This system provides a safer alternative of descending the 30-odd metres to an integrated liferaft and eliminates the risk associated with any requirement for direct entry into the sea. Other newly designed and constructed offshore production facilities which are soon to be commissioned in Australian waters will have these escape chute evacuation systems installed. While the use of escape chutes are a positive personnel safety development, operators must ensure that the workforce is provided with appropriate information and training in order to be able to competently operate such emergency equipment. The Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO) has developed OPITO Approved Standard 5770 – Escape Chute Training, which outlines that escape chute training should include exercises where personnel practice:

• entering the escape chute in a safe manner with permanent-buoyancy lifejacket

• descending the escape chute in a controlled manner by adopting the correct body position

• deploying and entering the integrated liferafts.

Regular deployment of the escape chute equipment will provide a reasonable level of assurance that the equipment can be relied upon to work effectively during an actual emergency. Operators also need to ensure that such competency is maintained over time with refresher training.

To view the OPITO Approved Standard 5770 – Escape Chute Training, see the OPITO standards library on the OPITO website here.