Currently offshore maintenance crews must climb all the way down the structure and transfer across to a support vessel to use its onboard facilities, then reboard the platform and climb back up to the top – an operation taking around 45 minutes, each time they need to answer the call of nature.
But all this is about to change, with workers in the northeast of Scotland at the head of the queue for a specially designed new convenience.
The world’s first ‘en-suite’ toilets are due to be installed in all 11 giant turbines at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm, with other schemes soon to follow suit.
The development has been hailed as a “game-changer” for the offshore wind industry, with transfers on and off installations posing the greatest safety risk for workers and impacting on productivity.
The move has been welcomed by the industry.
“For anyone who works on an offshore wind farm, the addition of a toilet in the turbine will be a relief,” said Alexandra Richards, operations and maintenance manager at Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm.
“A significant amount of working time is taken out of each day by technicians for loo visits, so there are operational benefits to be had.
“In addition, if the number of occasions a technician transfers to the crew transfer vessel is reduced there are health and safety benefits, so in-turbine toilets are more than just a convenience.”
The design of the cubicle was finalised at the end of last year in collaboration with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, which also plans to trial the facilities at its 7MW Levenmouth demonstration turbine off the Fife coast.
Inventor Dan Greeves, of Pegasus Welfare Solutions (PWS), said the loos addressed an issue that had long been the “elephant in the room” and should see basic hygiene facilities become standard for the offshore renewables industry.
He said: “No one would accept going to a building site where houses were being built and find no welfare facilities on site, so why should there be none on a working site offshore?”
“Hygiene and welfare are not optional extras.”
Lorna Bennet, mechanical engineer for ORE Catapult, added: “PWS are flushed with success, and it’s easy to understand why.
“Imagine you are suspended 100m in the air, 60km out to sea, and you suddenly need the loo.
“It’s a long way down and back to the vessel to access the amenities, and that’s provided the weather conditions are safe to transfer.
“If not, you’re going to be in for a long wait. So that’s why this solution for in-turbine toilets is very welcome indeed.”
Each toilet unit can be installed by two technicians within an hour, while servicing and supplies will be provided by local firms.
Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm, also known as European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, is a test and demonstration facility sited around 3km off the Aberdeenshire coast.
The scheme was at the centre of a row with former US president Donald Trump, who complained it ruined the views from his golf course at nearby Balmedie.